Data Protection Act

The Data Protection Act 1998 is based on a set of principles governing the handling of data about identifiable living individuals. They are intended to ensure that personal data is processed (a general term for anything that can be done with it) fairly and lawfully with the interests of the individuals always in mind. It gives individuals rights of access to data relating to themselves, though not to data about other people.

Examples of data covered by the legislation are:

Additional protection is given to ‘sensitive’ personal information, such as information about racial origin, religious and political opinions, physical or mental health or sexual orientation. This sort of information should not normally be revealed unless the individual has given express consent.

It is important to note that the Act allows for personal data to be kept indefinitely for historical research and this may be made available for research, including on-line, so long as:

Further guidance, which is kept up to date as necessary, is available from the website of the Information Commissioner (see the Bibliography).

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