Is name, surname and email in the Git commit history a personal information according to the coming GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and is there any special treatment required?

Git is a distributed system and therefore it is probably impossible to have a complete control of it - especially for opensource projects.

EDIT: It is also probably impossible to delete any information from the Git history. If the Git history contains any personal information, is it OK not being able to erase the information on request?

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    Read Article 17 ('right to be forgotten'). Unless there are "overriding legitimate grounds", then yes, you must adhere to it. For Git, for example, it is possible to change the author and committer name and e-mail of multiple commits.
    – Brandin
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 9:00
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    If you search the Git manual, Stackoverflow, and other resources, there are technical ways to remove information from a Git repo as well. They may not be easy or convenient, but the fact that it is not technically convenient to do such a thing is not an overriding legitimate ground not to do it if required. If you are in charge of the Git repo, it would be better to just ban personal information from coming into the repo in the first place (e.g. put that information somewhere else, like a separate database file that can be edited if needed).
    – Brandin
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 12:36
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    It's not just inconvenient to change history in git, it breaks everything to a point that the technology becomes useless. If GitHub started rewriting the history of every repo everytime someone requested their data be deleted, this would cause a major disruption to every open source project that was unlucky enough to have had that user contribute to it, no matter how small their contribution, every clone of the repo would become unmergable, thousands of hours of work could be lost. So, it's not just inconvenient, it is technically impossible without fundamentally breaking the technology. Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 4:48
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    How does it work with clones? It's technically possible for Github to change every fork that is stored on their server, but not the forks that have been cloned to workstations, or forks of those, or ...
    – Graham
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 20:27
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    You can't change history in git without rewriting it, that's a by design. Anyway, since writing the above, my company (whose core business is open source) has got advice from lawyers who specialise in GDPR. The key thing about holding personal data is whether you have a valid reason to hold. According to the lawyers, maintaining provinenance of IP is a valid reason to keep personal information. Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 20:07

2 Answers 2


I believe in this regard there is a legitimate interest to not delete this information.

You would have to perform a legitimate interest assessment, but for us (with private repositories) the reason would be to ensure that if in the future any malicious or illegal code was found that was knowingly committed to a repository there is trail and a way of understanding who did it.

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    This is similar to the advice our lawyers gave us, we're an open source company, in our case we have a legitimate interest in the personal details of committers in order to demonstrate the provenance of the IP of the code base. We actually keep much more than just email address and name, we keep physical address information, through requiring contributors to sign a CLA, and this is all a legitimate interest. Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 20:20

In the case of Git the user is submitting that data themselves along with the commit, so it is reasonable to assume they consent to it being stored since that is explicitly what they are asking the git server to do.

Users may however withdraw that consent later on. For a site like Github where it is made clear that projects not marked as private may be distributed and copied by other users outside of Github's control, there is little that could be done. This is similar to DMCA infringements and the like - at most they can ask Github to scrub data from their systems, but can't expect Github to scrub other people's computers or the rest of the internet for them.

In general though Git does allow such information to be retroactively removed from commits, which would likely be a reasonable request, especially for private repos.

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    So do you think that an ex-employee could force a company to remove his/her name, email etc. from the companies repositories? I mean sure it would be possible to alter the git history of all repos that you have access to, but every computer that was used to work on that repo, is probably storing a copy of it and also think about all the backups. It would be insanely time consuming to really remove the data from all these places. Also, can you really expect that a user has given consent, if the sysadmin has set up their git config or they simply don't fully understand git?
    – Forivin
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 14:22
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    Potentially. But presumably they would have used their company provided email address so that shouldn't need to be scrubbed. And the company has a legitimate need to retain employee records which include their name, including records of work they did which is now part of the git repo.
    – user
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 14:24
  • But do they have the right to keep records of every single line of code you wrote and when you wrote it etc? I mean would youcall that a "legitimate need"?
    – Forivin
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 14:29
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    Yes, because if there are issues with the software later it could be useful or even vital. You did the work for them with the understanding that this would be the case when you committed the code to git.
    – user
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 14:31
  • So? If you don't work for the company anymore and you want them to delete those records of you then I don't see why they could keep the data just to ask you for help in the future.
    – Forivin
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 9:22

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