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Failure to take the measures provided for under the GDPR is comparable to the “fault on the organisation’s side” under Legislative Decree No. 231/2001

Categories: DLP Insights, Case Law | Tag: GDPR, personal data protection, compliance

30 Sep 2020

The Court of Cassation, with order No. 18292 issued on 3 September 2020, has pointed out that failure to arrange the relevant technical and organisational measures safeguarding the protection of the personal data of the data subject is comparable to the organisational fault linked to the failure to adopt an organisational model pursuant to Legislative Decree No. 231/2001.

The facts of the case

In the case at issue, a local authority lodged an appeal before the Court of Cassation against an injunction order of the Italian Data Protection Authority with which a sanction had been inflicted thereto for having published the personal data of one of its civil servants beyond the 15 day term provided for under article 124 TUEL (“Local Authorities Consolidation Act”) in the online municipal notice board.

Indeed, it was ascertained that the City had kept some decisions visible for more than one year, from which the following were clear (i) name and surname of the data subject, (ii) existence of litigation between the data subject and the City, (iii) family certificate and (iv) the circumstances that the data subject lived by herself, had made a request for paying the amount due by instalments and that the request had not been accepted.

To back its own position, the City objected that the fault for the failure to cancel the data of the data subject from the online municipal city board needed to be attributed to an outside consultant who had been instructed to configure the Internet Website in compliance with the laws and regulations currently in force.

The decision of the Court of Cassation

In rejecting the appeal, the Court of Cassation clarified that the employee’s data did not concern any “aspect of the organisation”, they did not amount to “indicators concerning the operating trend and the use of resources”, nor did they even represent “results of the activity related to the measurement and assessment carried out by the competent bodies”. Therefore, the respective publication beyond the term fixed by law could not be deemed to be lawful.

Then, in so far as the liability of the outside consultant is concerned, the Court of Cassation has specified that the Data Controller, pursuant to article 4 of Regulation (EU) 2016/679 on the protection of personal data (hereinafter, the “GDPR”) is the legal entity and not the legal representative or the director, therefore, standalone liability precisely on the legal entity’s side takes shape. This liability, the judges carry on, must be understood as “fault on the organisation’s side”, that is “reprimand arising out of the breach by the authority of the obligation to take the necessary organisational and operating precautions to prevent the perpetration of the breaches of the law”, “just like under Legislative Decree No. 231/2001 on liability of entities arising out of crime”.

In light of the foregoing, the Court of Cassation reached the conclusion that the delay in removing the published data from the online municipal notice board is “may be fully traced back to the scope of authority of the Entity and of its own apparatus”.


With the order under examination, the Court of Cassation finds an important similarity between the subject matter of the protection of personal data and that of liability of entities arising out of crime, by precisely comparing and making the failure to adopt adequate technical and organisational measures (under article 32 GDPR) equal to the so-called “fault on the organisation’s side” foreseen by Legislative Decree No. 231/2001.

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