A controller refers to the entity that determines the “purpose and means” of how personal data will be processed. Determining the “purpose” of processing refers to deciding why information will be processed. Determining the “means” of processing refers to deciding how information will be processed.1 That does not necessarily mean, however, that a controller needs to make every decision about how processing will occur. The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) distinguishes between “essential means” and “non-essential means” of processing.2 Essential means refers to those processing decisions that are closely linked to the purpose and the scope of processing and, therefore, are considered by the EDPB to be “traditionally and inherently reserved to the controller.”3 Non-essential means refers to processing decisions that are more practical, day-to-day, implementation decisions and can be left to the discretion of a processor. These include such things as the type of computers or software that an organization decides to use.

The EDPB has suggested that a company that provides call center support for another business would generally be considered a processor based upon the following assumptions:4

Controller Functions


Purpose of processing
Why. The entity determines why the processing is taking place. X Assuming that a company retains a third party to provide call center support, the call center would not determine the purpose of processing.
Essential means
Data types. The entity determines which data will be processed. X The EDPB implies that a call center that provides customer support would typically not determine the type of data that would need to be processed. This presumes that the call center is provided instructions from its client regarding what information is necessary to support various data subject requests.
Duration. The entity determines how long data is processed / stored. X The EDPB presumably assumes that a call center that provides customer support would not determine how long information (e.g., call recordings) are kept.
Recipients. The entity determines who shall have access to the data outside of the organization. X The EDPB presumably assumes that most call centers would not be permitted to onward transfer personal information without the express permission of their client.
Data subjects. The entity determines whose personal data is processed. X The EDPB assumes that most call centers do not control which individuals may be seeking customer service support.