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What is Data Protection Act?

Updated on November 24, 2009

DATA PROTECTION ACT: The first concerns about the need for data protection were voiced quite soon after the introduction of computers into commerce and industry but more than 20 years passed before any legislation came into force. Public pressure for legislation gradually increased in the 70s and early 80s. With the prospect of joining Europe not too far away the governments also had to look at the consequences of not conforming to European legislation on data protection.

The council of Europe data protection convention setup in the late 1970 allowed participating countries. Each country has to ratify (confirm their acceptance of) the convention by signing twice, once when they agree to legislate and once when the legislation is passed.

Data Protection Act became law on July 12th 1984. It contains eight principles that are summarized as follows:

  • Personal data must be obtained and processed fairly and lawfully.
  • Personal data must be Personal data must be held for specified purposes.
  • Personal data must be Relevant and adequate.
  • Accurate and up to date.
  • Personal data must be Kept longer than necessity.
  • Personal data must be Made available to the individual concerned and provision made for correction.
  • Personal data must be kept secure.

Here “Personal Data” means any data relating to living person who can be identified from it e.g. by name.

The Act established the office of Registrar, whose duties include administering a public register of data users. Investigating complaints and initiating prosecutions of breaches of act. All data users have to register giving:

·        Their names and addresses ( or that of their company)

·        A description of the data held and its purpose.

·        A description of those sources from which the data is obtained.

·        A description of person to whom it is intended to disclose data.

The Data Protection Act 1998 was brought into force on 1st march 2000 and it works in two ways. It gives individuals certain rights. I also say that information is used and must follow the eight principles of “good information handling”


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