Data protection legislation sets out rules and standards for the collection, use and storage of information relating to living identifiable individuals. The current legislation in the UK is the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). From 25 May 2018, this will be replaced by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Both pieces of legislation are based around the notions of principles, rights and responsibilities. The legislation is regulated by the Information Commissioner’s Office as well as the courts.
The DPA applies to some paper records as well as those held in electronic form. It imposes obligations on those who record and use personal information to be open about how that information is used and requires them to follow the eight data protection principles.
Personal data must be processed following these principles so that data are:
These principles broadly are carried through into the GDPR, though they are expressed somewhat differently.
Under data protection legislation an individual has the right, subject to certain exemptions, to access the personal information that an organisation holds about them. Accessing personal data in this way is known as making a ‘subject access request’.
Individuals have certain additional rights under the DPA, such as the right to prevent data processing which is likely to cause substantial and unwarranted damage or distress, the right to prevent processing for the purpose of direct marketing, and the right to correct inaccurate personal data. These existing rights are enhanced and supplemented in the GDPR.
Data protection legislation imposes certain responsibilities on all those who process personal data at the Trust, whether members of staff holding, using, sharing or destroying personal data in their teaching, research or administration, or students accessing and recording personal data in their studies or other activities.
These obligations include holding and using data in a secure manner, making sure that data is handled in line with what individuals have been told, having appropriate arrangements in place for the access to (and sharing of) data, and making sure that individuals’ data is accurate and retained for a suitable period. Most importantly, if a data breach occurs (e.g. personal data held by the Trust is lost, stolen, inadvertently disclosed to an external party, or accidentally published), this should be reported immediately to the Chief Operating Officer so that the breach can be contained. On occasion, we need to report breaches to relevant external authorities.
The Information Commissioner
Under the DPA, the Trust maintains a data protection notification (registration) with the Information Commissioner. This outlines, in very general terms, the personal data being processed by the Trust. The Trust’s register entry number is ZA021099 and may be found by searching the Information Commissioner’s public register. (The registration system will cease when the GDPR applies.)