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data protection

Are you compliant?

The Data Protection Act 1998 gives people the right to access information held about them by certain organisations. The act governs how such organisations can use the personal information that they hold - including how they acquire, store, share or dispose of it.

In general, the Data Protection Act applies to all organisations (including individuals who work in a self-employed capacity) that hold or use personal data whether held on computer or in manual records. This covers information about staff, customers, clients and any others who are dealt with in the course of any business or professional activity.

One of the requirements of the DPA is that individuals and organisations that are processing personal data need to "notify" the Information Commissioner that they are doing so and what the purpose of that processing is. There are exceptions to this rule if the personal information is held only for:

  • staff administration (including payroll)
  • advertising, marketing and public relations for your own business
  • accounts and records (some not-for-profit organisations)

The other responsibilities are:

  • to process the personal data you hold in accordance with the eight Data Protection Principles laid down by the Act. Additional requirements and restrictions apply to the processing of sensitive personal data such as an individual's health records, ethnic origin, trade union membership or political opinions
  • to answer subject access requests received from individuals

The eight Data Protection Principles require that information is:

  • fairly and lawfully processed
  • processed for limited purposes
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • accurate
  • not kept longer than necessary
  • processed in accordance with individuals' rights
  • kept secure
  • not transferred to countries outside the European Economic Area without adequate protection

Notification costs £35 per annum and is paid to the Information Commissioner. Further information can be found at the Information Commissioner's Office at http://www.ico.gov.uk

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