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The Data Protection Act (1998)

Introduction and Purpose

The Act establishes certain rights for the individual with regard to personal information including collection, use, disclosure, destruction and merely holding date in the form of:

  • Computerised systems
  • Structured manual files

These rights include the right to obtain a copy of the records stored on computer about them (or held on manual files), the right to be informed of automated decisions about them, the right to have inaccurate personal data corrected or erased and where appropriate the right to seek compensation for any damage caused.

The act is based on eight EU ‘Data Protection Principles’ which define a code of conduct for the processing of personal data:

  1. Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be processed unless: at least one of the conditions of Schedule 2* is met, and in the case of sensitive data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 3* is also met’.
  2. Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes’
  3. Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed’
  4. Personal data shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date
  5. Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes’
  6. Personal data shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under this Act’
  7. Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data’
  8. Personal data shall not be transferred to a country or territory outside the European Economic Area, unless that country or territory ensures that an adequate level of protection for the rights and freedom of data subjects in relation to the processing of personal data’

* Schedules 2 and 3 of the Date Protection Act 1998 provide a list of conditions which a legitimate basis for the processing of personal data.

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