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Last reviewed on 19 April 2021
Ref: 30244

The UK GDPR classifies some data as 'special category', meaning it's sensitive and needs more protection. Read on to find out what kind of data is defined this way, and the conditions you can use to justify why you need to process it.

What counts as 'special category' data?

'Special category' data is personal data that's more sensitive because there could be significant risks posed to an individual's rights and freedoms if it's lost or stolen. Therefore, this kind of data needs more protection. 

It includes personal data that reveals:

  • Racial or ethnic origin
  • Political opinions
  • Religious or philosophical beliefs
  • Trade union membership

And data concerning:

  • Genetic information
  • Biometrics (such as fingerprints, retina and iris patterns), where used for identification purposes
  • Health – physical or mental
  • Sex life
  • Sexual orientation

Information that reveals details about an individual, could be for example: 

  • The name and gender of a person's spouse, which would reveal the person's sexual orientation
  • A photograph, which could reveal some of the above characteristics of a person

Conditions for processing special category data

In order to lawfully process special

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