Your complete guide to GDPR Binding Corporate Rules

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Binding corporate rules (BCR) are data protection policies adhered to by companies established in the EU for transfers of personal data outside the EU within a group of undertakings or enterprises.”

European Commission

Picture this: Your EU-based organization is expanding its global reach. But with this growth comes the challenge of transferring personal data outside the EU, while staying compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). That’s where GDPR Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs) come in. 

In this post, we’ll provide an overview of BCRs, help you unpack when you are required to use BCRs, detail the benefits they offer, and more.

Key takeaways

  • BCRs provide a secure framework for EU-based companies transferring personal data outside the EU
  • Companies based in the EU must follow these internal policies when transferring personal data outside the EU, taking into account the data subjects affected
  • Data Protection Officers (DPOs) are key players in upholding GDPR compliance by monitoring organization data processing and ensuring adherence to BCRs and GDPR 

Defining GDPR Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs)

Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs) serve as internal data protection policies, specifically tailored for multinational corporations. Their main function is to facilitate the cross-border data transfer of personal data into and out of the EU, in compliance with GDPR requirements.

Organizations can only exchange personal data into and out of the European Union if they can demonstrate compliance with the GDPR’s stipulations.

Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs) provide an efficient solution to this challenge. Instead of generating numerous documents pertaining to their data transfer procedures, organizations can employ BCRs to encompass all their group data-sharing endeavors.

BCRs must adhere to all general data protection principles and ensure that individuals have enforceable rights for data security. This will ensure that data is secure during transfers.

A comprehensive BCR should contain information about:

  • The group structure involved in data sharing
  • Contact details for the group and its members
  • Information about the data being shared
  • GDPR’s data protection principles
  • Data subject rights
  • Steps the organization will take to comply with data subject requests
  • Liability of data controllers/processors
  • Tasks of the Data Protection Officer (DPO) or whoever is responsible for GDPR compliance
  • Organizational obligations for communicating with its supervisory authority
  • Data protection audits
  • Staff awareness training

A list of BCRs approved under the GDPR is available here.

BCRs are legally binding 

As legally binding and enforceable policies, BCRs establish a robust framework for data transfers within a corporate group, especially for international transfers. Companies based in the EU must follow these internal policies when transferring personal data outside the EU, taking into account the data subjects affected.

The supervisory authority approves BCRs following the consistency mechanism outlined in Article 63 of the GDPR ensuring data security. This legal certainty provided by BCRs makes them a go-to choice for enterprises engaged in international business, complying with the GDPR’s third-country data transfer requirements.

Art. 63 GDPR – Consistency mechanism

In order to contribute to the consistent application of this Regulation throughout the Union, the supervisory authorities shall cooperate with each other and, where relevant, with the Commission, through the consistency mechanism as set out in this Section.


The material scope of BCRs

BCRs cover the transfer of personal data, including sensitive information, and must adhere to GDPR principles to maintain data security. They encompass the types of data being transferred, the types of data subjects, and the countries involved in international data transfers.

BCRs, by adhering to the GDPR’s third-country data transfer requirements, present a dependable solution for EU-based companies transferring personal data outside the EU, encompassing cross-border data transfers as well.

What’s the approval process for BCRs under the GDPR?

The approval process for BCRs involves the following steps:

  • Submitting them to a designated supervisory authority
  • Review and approval based on GDPR consistency mechanisms
  • The competent authority proposes their decision to the European Data Protection Board
  • The Board provides their opinion on the binding corporate rules

The lead supervisory authority plays a crucial role in the approval process, as they send out the BCR to all relevant regulators to ensure it meets the criteria. Once everyone agrees, the BCR will be given the green light.

Understanding the role of the Data Protection Officer

The Data Protection Officer (DPO) occupies a pivotal position in the development and implementation of BCRs, guaranteeing adherence to GDPR requirements. They are responsible for monitoring the organization’s compliance with the BCR and making sure that personal data is processed according to the BCR and GDPR.

Overall, the DPO acts as a guardian of data protection within the organization and ensures that BCRs are effectively implemented and enforced to safeguard the rights and privacy of data subjects when their personal data is transferred internationally within the corporate group. This includes:

  • Advisory role: Advising the organization on all matters related to data protection, including the development, implementation, and enforcement of BCRs.
  • Monitoring compliance: The DPO is responsible for monitoring the organization’s compliance with BCRs. 
  • Handling data protection incidents: If there are data breaches or incidents that potentially violate the BCRs, the DPO plays a key role in managing and reporting these incidents to the relevant data protection authorities and affected individuals, as required by data protection laws.
  • Cooperation with supervisory authorities: The DPO acts as a liaison between the organization and data protection authorities.
  • Employee training and awareness: The DPO helps educate employees within the organization about the importance of BCRs and data protection best practices. 
  • Assistance in BCR application and approval: When an organization is seeking approval for its BCRs from data protection authorities, the DPO may assist in preparing and submitting the necessary documentation and ensuring that the BCRs align with legal requirements.
  • Periodic audits and reviews: The DPO may conduct periodic audits and reviews of the organization’s data protection practices to ensure ongoing compliance with BCRs. 
  • Responding to data subject requests: The DPO helps facilitate data subject requests related to BCRs, such as requests for access to personal data, rectification, or erasure, ensuring that the organization responds appropriately and within legal timelines.

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Effective and up-to-date communication with Supervisory Authorities

Sustaining transparent communication with supervisory authorities remains paramount throughout the BCR approval process. Companies must provide contact details and ensure that they are up-to-date.

The contact details and communication with supervisory authorities in the approval process for BCRs under the GDPR can vary depending on the particular case and the member states involved. It is recommended to get in touch with the lead supervisory authority in the EU for advice on the process.

What are the key components of effective BCRs?

To be effective, BCRs should incorporate general data protection principles, data subject rights, and complaint procedures, thereby assuring GDPR compliance. These elements provide a solid foundation for organizations to protect personal data during international transfers and demonstrate their commitment to privacy protection.

General Data Protection Principles

BCRs must adhere to GDPR principles, such as data minimization, accuracy, and storage limitation. The lawfulness, fairness, and transparency principle dictates that data processing must be legal, fair, and open. The purpose limitation principle ensures that data processing is kept to the purpose it was collected for.

Other key principles include:

  • Data minimization (processing only the necessary data)
  • Accuracy (keeping data up-to-date)
  • Storage limitation (retaining data only as long as necessary)
  • Integrity and confidentiality (working to ensure data security and privacy)
  • Accountability (demonstrating GDPR compliance)

Data subject rights and complaint procedures

BCRs must outline data subject rights and establish clear complaint procedures for data subjects to exercise their rights. Data subject rights include:

  • The right to be informed
  • The right of access
  • The right to rectification
  • The right to erasure
  • The right to restrict processing
  • The right to data portability
  • The right to object
  • The right not to be subject to automated decision-making

Individuals have the right to lodge a complaint with a supervisory authority, seek judicial remedy, and obtain compensation for damages. By including accessible information on data subject rights and straightforward complaint procedures in BCRs, organizations empower data subjects to take control of their personal data and hold organizations accountable for any potential violations.

Get expert guidance on GDPR compliance

Understanding GDPR and employee data protection is essential for employers to maintain trust, ensure compliance, and safeguard their employees’ personal information. 

By becoming familiar with the basics of GDPR, legitimate interests, key GDPR requirements, employee data subject rights, and cross-border data transfer guidelines, employers can confidently navigate the complex world of employee data protection. 

Remember, compliance with GDPR is not just a legal obligation, but also a way to foster trust and transparency within your organization. Seeking expert guidance can help your business ensure it meets GDPR requirements.

Chat with our compliance experts: A free 15-minute AMA 

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Our 5-step approach makes GDPR much easier to navigate:

  • STEP 1: Kick-off. After a deep dive into data privacy, our experts customize your GDPR compliance roadmap
  • STEP 2: Onboarding. Get up and running with GDPR policy templates, automated vendor discovery, and clear action items
  • STEP 3: Implementation. Efficiently implement and operationalize GDPR with guided workflows, automation, and support from our experts
  • STEP 4: GDPR assessment and reporting. As a third party, Thoropass delivers a transparent assessment and report to share with customers and prospects
  • STEP 5: And beyond… Leverage our extensive platform to add frameworks, renew attestation, and ensure continuous compliance

Learn more about what your GDPR compliance journey with Thoropass will look like here!

FAQs and deeper dives: Check out these resources

If you’re looking for a deeper dive into GDPR-related topics, check out the following resources from the Thoropass blog:

What are GDPR limitations?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) does not apply to certain situations or entities. Here are some instances where GDPR may not apply:

Non-EU/EEA countries 

GDPR does not apply to businesses that do not operate within the European Union (EU). It specifically covers companies within the EU, as well as those outside the EU that have establishments or employees within the EU, or provide goods and services to data subjects in the EU. However, companies that have no connection to the EU, either in their operations or client base, are not subject to GDPR’s requirements.

Government and law enforcement activities

GDPR does not apply to personal data processing carried out for purely governmental or law enforcement purposes. National security activities, defense, and public safety fall outside the scope of GDPR. 

Individual use for purely personal activities

GDPR primarily applies to data processing activities carried out by organizations or entities in a professional or commercial capacity. It generally does not cover personal or household activities conducted by individuals for personal purposes.

What rules should businesses follow to ensure compliance with GDPR?

To ensure compliance with GDPR, businesses should:

  • Follow the regulation’s principles
  • Implement appropriate security measures
  • Maintain documentation of their compliance efforts
  • Keep records of data protection policies
  • Conduct data protection impact assessments
  • Provide data protection training for staff
  • Assign a data protection officer as necessary

By adhering to these guidelines, businesses can avoid costly fines and reputational damage.

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