Article 7 GDPR
|← Article 7: Conditions for consent →|
1. Where processing is based on consent, the controller shall be able to demonstrate that the data subject has consented to processing of his or her personal data.
2. If the data subject's consent is given in the context of a written declaration which also concerns other matters, the request for consent shall be presented in a manner which is clearly distinguishable from the other matters, in an intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language. Any part of such a declaration which constitutes an infringement of this Regulation shall not be binding.
3. The data subject shall have the right to withdraw his or her consent at any time. The withdrawal of consent shall not affect the lawfulness of processing based on consent before its withdrawal. Prior to giving consent, the data subject shall be informed thereof. It shall be as easy to withdraw as to give consent.
4. When assessing whether consent is freely given, utmost account shall be taken of whether, inter alia, the performance of a contract, including the provision of a service, is conditional on consent to the processing of personal data that is not necessary for the performance of that contract.
Article 7 regulates the "conditions for consent". It specifies the definition of consent set out in Article 4 and, by integrating Article 6(1)(a), contributes in defining what legal requirements a valid consent should have. The provision also places the burden of proof on the data controller for the existence of consent.
Obligation to provide proof of consent (Article 7(1) GDPR)
Under Article 7(1) GDPR, the controller must demonstrate to have obtained a valid consent. However, there is no direct legal sanction linked to a possible violation. If, for example, the existence of an effective consent is disputed and the controller cannot provide evidence of this, it can be assumed that there is no consent. 
Therefore, the controller bears the burden of proof for the existence of an (effective and valid) declaration of consent. This requirement leaves room for various forms of consent, although of course it only applies to those consent obtaining mechanisms which can be proven. Consent can be given through a clear, affirmative act (see Recital 32) in the form of a written, electronic or oral declaration. It is clear, however, that the stricter the intended form of consent is, the easier it will be to provide evidence about it. 
Layout requirements in the case of connection with another matter (Article 7(2) GDPR)
The principle of separation laid down in Article 7(2) ensures that consent is truly informed (see Article 6(1)(a) GDPR) and not inadvertently given. To do so, Article 7(2) establishes layout requirements for the consent expressed in written form ("in the context of a written declaration").
The written form requirement is to be interpreted broadly. The electronic form is therefore at least also covered by this provision. Since data protection law is particularly important in a digital context and the regulation giver aimed to provide comprehensive protection for those affected, the provision can also be used in digital legal transactions.
First, it should be "distinguishable" from other statements. Historically, consent has been interpreted as the action through which subject "A" authorizes subject "B" to perform a certain action "C". If the limits of the authorization are unclear, the consent cannot be valid. In data protection terms, this translates into a statement which clearly authorizes the controller to carry out a specific processing operation.
Second, it should be formulated in clear and simple language. This means that even users with poor reading skills due to a low level of education or lack of language skills can understand the text and consciously express their consent.  The warning and information function applies also with regard to the legal consequences of consent. Making sure that consent forms are not bundled guarantees more control for the data subject when deciding to give consent.
Failure to meet the requirements
If any part of the statement (provided by the controller to the data subject) does not meet the above-mentioned requirements or anyway "constitutes an infringement of this Regulation [it] shall not be binding". In data protection terms, this may easily translate into a violation of the lawfulness principle (the claimed legal basis is not present --> Article 6(1)(a) GDPR) and should bring to the immediate deletion of all the data collected. 
Right to withdraw consent
The data subject can withdraw their consent at any time and should be made aware of this right before granting consent. Withdrawal should be as easy as giving it; however, the withdrawal will not retroactively affect any processing based on the consent prior to its withdrawal.
The data subject needs only provide the minimum amount of personal information needed to identify and authenticate them to successfully revoke their consent.
Free nature of consent
The data subject must have a free choice and be able to refuse or withdraw consent without suffering disadvantages. Any potential imbalance of powers shall be analysed on a case by case basis. (See also Article 6.)
→ You can find all related decisions in Category:Article 7 GDPR
- See, Heckmann, Paschke, in Ehmann, Selmayr, Datenschutz-Grundverordnung, Article 7 GDPR, Margin number 68 (Beck, 2nd edition 2018) (29.4.2021) who explains the dynamic in this way: "Da die Vorschrift zwar die Pflicht eines Nachweises aufstellt, allerdings an einen möglichen Verstoß keine unmittelbare Rechtsfolge anknüpft, stellt diese Regelung keine Bedingung dar, sondern ist vielmehr eine Risikoverteilungsregelung".
- Heckmann, Paschke, in Ehmann, Selmayr, Datenschutz-Grundverordnung, Article 7 GDPR, Margin number 69 (Beck, 2nd edition 2018) (29.4.2021)
- Heckmann, Paschke, in Ehmann, Selmayr, Datenschutz-Grundverordnung, Article 7 GDPR, Margin number 80 (Beck, 2nd edition 2018) (accessed 29.4.2021)