Respecting the GDPR in Online Interviewed Focus Groups




data protection, GDPR, data processing, research, online interview, focus groups, WCS


Since March 2020 the Corona virus has limited personal encounters due to social distancing measures. Thus, many data collection techniques relying on face-to-face interaction, like interviews or Focus Groups (FG), are now being practised in online environments. Such change requires the implementation of innovative measures to comply with Regulation EU 2016/679 (GDPR) and obey national data protection laws. Processing personal data of voluntary participants has to have a lawful ground and a clear purpose behind it. Moreover, the researcher has to respect legal requirements and principles for processing personal data, provide the participants with information about the research procedure and apply security measures to avoid risks to the rights and freedoms of individuals. This process has to apply to any interaction mediated by Web-Conferencing Systems (WCS). The purpose of this paper is to describe the legal requirements for conducting online interviews or FG under social distancing conditions. The project of reference for the application of these requirements is the EU Horizon2020 HELIOS project consisting of the development of a decentralised social media platform.

Lay summary

At universities or in industry researchers can interview people personally to test, for instance, the use of a specific technology. The objective is to collect data for future improvements. In 2020 people all over the world found themselves in a pandemic. The Covid-19 limited social meetings with beloved ones and also restricted the work of scientific researchers. Individual or group interviews could not take place in presence. Thus, a solution was seen in online conferencing platforms such as Zoom. Modifying the space and the way in which an interview takes place poses some legal challenges regarding data protection. Such conversations with individuals always have to apply European and national data protection laws. Among other things, this means that there needs to be a specific legal reason to process personal data and a specific purpose behind the interview. Additionally, the researcher has to inform participants about all the legal terms, legal guarantees and research procedure. All this applies as well if online conferencing platforms are used. In this article, you can find a description of the necessary legal steps to develop online interviews with individuals or focus groups and fulfil European data protection requirements.


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Author Biography

Carolina Goberna Caride, Universität Passau

Carolina Goberna Caride is research assistant, and PhD candidate, at the Law Faculty of the University of Passau. Her research focuses on Privacy, Data Protection Law, and Data Governance, work which she develops at the Chair of Public Law, European Law and IT Law and at the Chair of European and International Information and Data Law. Since 2019 she is part of the Horizon2020 Helios project. In October 2021 she acquired a research position at the Research Center for Law and Digitization (“FREDI”). In 2020 she became member of the Faculty Board as the Women's Representative of the Law Faculty. After concluding a Bachelor of Laws at the University Carlos III of Madrid, she fulfilled a LL.M. on European and International Law at the Europa-Institut in Saarbrücken.




How to Cite

Goberna Caride, C. (2021). Respecting the GDPR in Online Interviewed Focus Groups. Journal of Audiovisual Translation, 4(2), 42–61.