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26 February 2005

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Data Protection made easier

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The Information Commissioner has recently launched the “Make Data Protection Simpler” Campaign. As we are all aware the legislation is complicated and this is an attempt to simplify the law to help organisations understand its obligations and requirements and to aid any abiding of the rules which are being produced.

In the Press Release from the Information Commissioner they state the following:-

“This campaign is intended to challenge such negative perceptions and to ensure that real protection of information about individuals is achieved in practice”.

The Information Commissioner is requesting that we supply to him our suggestions for improving Data Protection Law and making it easier to comply with in practice. Therefore, suggestions can be made by email to [email protected]

Data Protection: Lesser rights to demand information

There has been a recent decision in an important case relating to the scope of the Data Protection Act. This case is called Durant -v- Financial Services Authority. It has provided guidance on the extent to which Employers are obliged to provide copies of Employee’s personal files, emails, documents, etc.

The decision provides the following:-

A. Personal Data (data from which an individual can be identified) will usually give rise to a disclosure obligation. Under the new case law, personal data is now not enough to lead to a disclosure obligation - in effect, a mere mention of a subject name in a document does now not make the information in that document “personal data”. In the case, Mr Durant argued that information store by the Financial Services Authority concerning a complaint he made about his treatment by Barclays Bank was not personal data. Therefore, the case has determined that information “must be biographical in a significant extent” and therefore the subject should be its focus;

B. The case also dealt with the question of a relevant filing system which is one where information is structured by reference to the individual “by name etc”. However, the case determined that a large file in the possession of the FSA with the name “Mr Durant” on the side of it which contained a large number of documents relating to his complaint about Barclays Bank was not a relevant filing system. The reason for this was that the data was constructed by reference to date and not by reference to the individual. Therefore, the case in effect is stating that if documents are not structured by reference to the data which makes the data become personal data, the disclosure provisions of the Act are not applicable.

In practical terms then, it would appear that the fact that a folder labelled with an individual’s name is not enough to bring it within the Act and the disclosure provisions.

The Court of Appeal have warned and are criticising individuals who seek to use the Act to obtain general information about themselves rather than information relating to their personal data.

December 2003




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This article is an employment law e-ssentials bulletin produced by Hegarty & Co

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