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FINLAND - Data Protection and GDPR Review


The history of data protection in Finland reflects a commitment to safeguarding individual privacy and aligning with broader European standards. Here is an overview of the key developments and milestones:

Early Days (Pre-1980s)

Data protection was not a significant concern in Finland before the advent of computer technology. With the growing use of computers in the public and private sectors during the 1970s, awareness about data protection started to rise.

Data Protection Act of 1987

Finland's first comprehensive law related to data protection was the Personal Data File Act, enacted in 1987. This marked a significant step towards formalizing the principles and rules surrounding the handling of personal information.

European Union Membership (1995)

Finland's accession to the European Union in 1995 had a significant impact on the country's data protection laws. Membership required alignment with EU directives and regulations, and Finland promptly adapted its existing laws to meet the EU standards.

Implementation of the Data Protection Directive (1999)

In line with the EU's Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC), Finland updated its data protection framework, culminating in the Personal Data Act of 1999. This law replaced the previous 1987 act, incorporating the principles of the EU directive.

Establishment of the Data Protection Ombudsman

The role of the Data Protection Ombudsman was established to oversee compliance with data protection laws in Finland. This independent authority is tasked with ensuring that the processing of personal data is lawful and that individuals' privacy rights are protected.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (2018)

The GDPR became applicable in Finland on May 25, 2018, as part of a broader EU-wide regulation. The GDPR provided enhanced protections for individuals and imposed more stringent requirements on organizations. Finland's existing data protection laws were amended to align with the GDPR.

The Data Protection Act of 2018

In conjunction with the implementation of GDPR, Finland enacted a new Data Protection Act in 2018. This law complemented the GDPR, providing additional regulations and details specific to the Finnish context.

Ongoing Developments and Sector-Specific Regulations

Finland continues to adapt and evolve its data protection laws, with sector-specific regulations for industries like healthcare, finance, and telecommunications. The country's strong commitment to technology and innovation also drives ongoing debates and legislative updates related to data protection.


The history of data protection in Finland has been shaped by domestic considerations and the broader European context. From early legislation to alignment with EU standards, Finland has demonstrated a commitment to safeguarding individual privacy. The country's data protection framework continues to adapt to technological advancements and emerging challenges, reflecting a complex and dynamic field that balances individual rights with economic and societal needs.

Introduction to GDPR

GDPR sets forth a uniform set of data protection rules across the EU. It impacts how organizations collect, process, store, and use personal data. Finnish law has been amended to align with the GDPR.

Principles of GDPR in Finland

The main principles include:

  • Lawfulness, Fairness, and Transparency: Processing must be lawful, fair, and transparent to the individual.

  • Purpose Limitation: Data must be collected for specific and legitimate purposes.

  • Data Minimization: Only data necessary for the purpose should be processed.

  • Accuracy: Data must be accurate and up to date.

  • Storage Limitation: Data must not be stored longer than necessary.

  • Integrity and Confidentiality: Data must be processed securely.

Key Rights of Individuals

Individuals in Finland have the following rights under GDPR:

  • Right to Access: Individuals can request information about their data.

  • Right to Rectification: Individuals can have incorrect data corrected.

  • Right to Erasure: In certain circumstances, individuals can request deletion of data.

  • Right to Restrict Processing: Individuals can limit how their data is used.

  • Right to Data Portability: Individuals can request their data be transferred to another service provider.

  • Right to Object: Individuals can object to certain processing of their data.

Obligations of Organizations

Organizations in Finland must comply with:

  • Appointment of Data Protection Officer (DPO): Certain organizations must designate a DPO.

  • Data Breach Notifications: Must be reported to the Finnish Data Protection Authority within 72 hours.

  • Impact Assessments: Required when processing is likely to result in high risk to individuals.

  • Consent Management: Consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.

  • Compliance Documentation: Organizations must keep records to demonstrate compliance.

The Finnish Data Protection Ombudsman

  • Role and Responsibilities: Supervising compliance with data protection regulations.

  • Complaint Handling: Individuals can file complaints with the Ombudsman.

  • Penalties: Can impose fines for non-compliance, up to €20 million or 4% of annual global turnover.

Specific Finnish Considerations

  • Data Protection Act of 2018: This Finnish law complements GDPR and provides specific national provisions.

  • Sector-Specific Regulations: Different sectors, such as healthcare and finance, may have additional regulations.

Conclusion and Best Practices

  • Regular Audits and Assessments: To ensure continuous compliance with Finnish laws and GDPR.

  • Training and Education: Keeping staff informed about responsibilities and requirements.

  • Legal Consultation: Engaging Finnish data protection legal experts to ensure full understanding of local nuances.

The GDPR, along with specific Finnish regulations, provides a comprehensive framework for data protection in Finland. By following the principles, respecting individuals' rights, and fulfilling organizational obligations, compliance with these complex regulations can be achieved.

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