Data protection legislation sets out rules and standards for the use and handling ('processing') of information ('personal data') about living identifiable individuals ('data subjects') by organisations ('data controllers'). It is based around the notions of principles, rights and accountability obligations
The law applies to organisations in all sectors, both public and private. It applies to all electronic records as well as many paper records. It doesn't apply to anonymous information or to information about the deceased.
Since 25 May 2018, the legislation in the UK has been the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), coupled with the UK Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018) that supplements the GDPR in specific ways. These two pieces of legislation replaced the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA 1998) and the numerous Statutory Instruments issued pursuant to it. There is also supplementary data protection legislation covering specific topics, such as direct marketing. The legislation is regulated in the UK by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) as well as the courts.
Under the GDPR, the University (like all data controllers) is required to pay an annual fee to the ICO and to be included in its register of fee payers (the University's register entry number is 27830067 and the current registration period - which is renewed on an annual basis - expires on 12 May 2020).
Data controllers processing personal data must follow - and be able to demonstrate that they are following - the data protection principles.
Under the GDPR, there are six principles. Personal data must be processed following these principles so that data is:
- Processed fairly, lawfully and transparently - and only if there is a valid 'legal basis' for doing so.
- Processed only for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes.
- Adequate, relevant and limited.
- Accurate (and rectified if inaccurate).
- Not kept for longer than necessary
- Processed securely - to preserve the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the personal data
Under the DPA 1998 there were eight principles but two of these (about the rights of data subjects and transfers of personal data outside the European Economic Area) are covered in different ways in the GDPR. Depending on the context, there are full or partial exemptions from the principles when processing personal data for specific purposes.
An important aspect of complying with data protection legislation is being open and transparent with individuals about how their personal data will be used. The supply of this information - through documents known as 'privacy notices' takes places in numerous targeted ways, depending on the nature of the interaction with the individual.
The University's core privacy notices can be found below
Under the GDPR, data subjects are given various rights, which apply to different types of processing and are free to exercise:
- The right to be informed of how their personal data are being used - this right is usually fulfilled by the provision of 'privacy notices' as described above.
- The right of access to their personal data - accessing personal data in this way is usually known as making a 'subject access request'.
- The right to have their inaccurate personal data rectified.
- The right to have their personal data erased where appropriate - also known as the right to be forgotten.
- The right to restrict the processing of their personal data pending its verification or correction.
- The right to receive copies of their personal data in a machine-readable and commonly used format - known as the right to data portability.
- The right to object: to processing (including profiling) of their personal data that proceeds under particular legal bases; to direct marketing; and to processing of their data for research purposes where that research is not in the public interest.
- The right not to be subject to a significant decision based solely on automated decision- making using their personal data.
A response to a rights request normally needs to be sent within one month. However, nearly all of these rights are qualified in various ways and there are numerous specific exemptions both in the GDPR and in the DPA 2018 (for example, nearly all the rights may not apply if the personal data are being processed solely in an academic research context). These rights build upon and strengthen rights previously given to data subjects under the DPA 1998.
Data protection legislation imposes certain accountability obligations on all data controllers. Under the GDPR, the main obligations for large data controllers include:
- Implementing policies, procedures, processes and training to promote 'data protection by design and by default'.
- Where necessary, carrying out systematic Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) on 'high risk' processing activities.
- Having appropriate contracts in place when sharing personal data - especially when outsourcing functions that involve the processing of personal data and/or transferring the personal data outside the EEA.
- Maintaining records of the data processing that is carried out across the organisation.
- Documenting and reporting personal data breaches both to the ICO and the affected data subjects when necessary
- Where necessary, appointing an independent Data Protection Officer to advise on and monitor compliance. The University's DPO can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the most important accountability obligations concerns personal data breaches - that is, personal data held by the University is lost, stolen, inadvertently disclosed to an external party, or accidentally published. Some typical examples of a personal data breach are:
- Sending an email or letter containing personal data to the wrong recipient.
- Accidentally disclosing personal email addresses (e.g. by using cc instead of bcc).
- Inadvertently publishing University records containing personal data, or login credentials allowing access to them, on the internet.
- Losing an unsecured laptop or other personal device storing University records containing personal data/
- Having a University website, email account or drive hacked, with personal data stolen or 'locked down' by the hacker.
Personal data breaches may arise from IT security incidents, but not all IT security incidents are personal data breaches, and vice versa. Some types of personal data breach have to be reported to the ICO and the affected data subjects within 72 hours of the breach occurring, so reporting them internally as soon as they occur is crucial.
If a personal data breach occurs, this should be reported urgently as follows:
- Inform your line manager.
- Complete the Data Breach Reporting Form (Word doc 38k), including as much detail as possible.
- Send the form via email to email@example.com
The University's Data Protection Policy 2018 was approved by the University Board of Governors in May 2018. Section 4.0 outlines the responsibilities of individual members of University staff. It is important that the data protection policy is adhered to by all staff members.
To contact the University of Wolverhampton's Data Protection Officer you can:
- Email via firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone on 01902 32 1000
- Write to Data Protection, Offices of the Vice Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton, Wulfruna Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1LY.