WORKING PAPER • VOL. 7 • N° 31 • December 2021

The fundamental right to personal data protection in criminal investigations and proceedings: framing big data policing through the purpose limitation and data minimisation principles of the Directive (EU) 2016/680

by Paul De Hert and Juraj Sajfert


The Law Enforcement Directive (EU) 2016/680 (LED) defines its basic principles, such as purpose limitation and data minimisation, differently than the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (GDPR). This contribution is exploring the influence of those differences on new policing methods, in particular on the big data policing. After describing the data protection regulatory framework for law enforcement authorities in the EU, we explain our understanding of the notion of big data policing. We then critically interpret the purpose limitation and the data minimisation principle in the GDPR and the LED, thereby busting some myths about the LED, created by other academics. Finally, we explore the boundaries of the abovementioned basic LED principles, in an attempt to measure their success in finding the delicate balance between the high level of personal data protection and the contemporary law enforcement needs.

Keywords: data protection, Law Enforcement Directive, criminal justice, big data, purpose limitation, data minimisation

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