Understanding the Data Protection Act

Understanding Data Protection

Information, and in particular personal information on individuals, is one of the most valuable tools of modern life. Governmental and non-governmental organisations hold vast quantities of information about individuals, and consumer businesses are desperate to get their hands on it to target us with goods that we may or may not need. However, the regulation of who holds this information, how they hold it, and in what circumstances they use it and/or pass it on to others, has been the subject of detailed legislation and guidance over many years and is known as the Data Protection Act.

What does the Data protection act do?

The Data Protection Act controls how your personal information is used by organisations, businesses or the government. Everyone responsible for using data has to follow strict rules called ‘data protection principles’. They must make sure the information is:

  • used fairly and lawfully
  • used for limited, specifically stated purposes
  • used in a way that is adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • accurate
  • kept for no longer than is absolutely necessary
  • handled according to people’s data protection rights
  • kept safe and secure
  • not transferred outside the UK without adequate protection

A stronger legal protection is in operation for more sensitive information, such as:

  • ethnic background
  • political opinions
  • religious beliefs
  • health
  • sexual health
  • criminal records

How can I find out what information organisations have about me?

The Data Protection Act are legally required to give everyone the right to find out exactly what information the government and other organisations have stored about us. So simply write and ask them for a copy. If you are not sure who to write to, address your letter to the company secretary.

Can any information be withheld?

There are certain situations when organisations are allowed to withhold information such as;

  • the prevention, detection or investigation of a crime
  • national security or the armed forces
  • the assessment or collection of tax
  • judicial or ministerial appointments
  • The organisation is not a liberty to tell you for which of the above reason they are withholding information.

How much does it cost to receive this information?

Generally speaking, expect to pay no more than £10.00 to receive the information, however the cost increases if the information is contained within certain types of records, for example, health or education records.

What if my data has been misused?

If you are concerned that your data has been misused or that it hasn’t been kept secure, then contact the organisation of concern and tell them. If the response that you receive is unsatisfactory, or if you require further advice, then you can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on: Telephone: 0303 123 1113. The ICO will investigate your claim and take action against anyone who’s misused personal data. You can also visit their website for information on how to make a data protection complaint.

How can data get into the wrong hands?

One of the biggest culprits of data getting into the wrong hands, is when electronic devices, such as computer data bases are not disposed of legally and responsibly.
Here at Recycle IT 4U, along with collecting, recycling and remarketing redundant IT equipment, we also operate on a nationwide basis to provide secure hard drive and data destruction, either on or off site. To fully assure you that the data has been destroyed, we issue full asset tracking and certificates of disposal immediately.

Stay informed. After all, it is your right.