How Protected is your Data?

God of our fathers, known of old—
Lord of our far-flung battle line—
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

                                                                                         – Rudyard Kipling

How protected do you think you are? And no, I’m not talking about car insurance, although that is also pretty important! Data protection is one of those things that many of us think very little about until it all goes wrong, the same as most things then if we’re being honest.

You’ll probably be a slightly surprised to here that there isn’t a single piece of privacy legislation. Yes, there are things such as the right to respect of your private and family life (under s.1 (1) (a)) in the Human Rights Act 1998 which comes from Article 8 in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and even the Data Protect Act 1998 (DPA 1998), however none of these are specifically on the subject of privacy.

The DPA 1998 is the main piece of legislation that concerns the protection of personal data. It was implemented due to an EU Directive which stated that member states had to protect individuals rights in freedoms including the protection of their personal data. It set out eight principles, which state that personal data must be:

  1. Processed fairly and lawfully,
  2. Obtained for specified and lawful purposes,
  3. Adequate, relevant and not excessive,
  4. Accurate and where necessary kept up to date,
  5. Should not be kept any longer than necessary,
  6. Kept and processed in accordance with the subject’s (individual’s) rights,
  7. Securely kept and,
  8. Not be transferred to any other country without adequate protection in place.

One of the sections in this act, that many of us would be very interested to find out about, is s.7 DPA 1998. This section states that we are legally entitled to ask what data a specific company has on us, they may ask you for an administrative cost, however they should comply. There are some exemptions to this, as always, and includes military personnel, judicial appointments and many more all for various policy reasons, as with most things in law.

Another Act that many of us are aware of would be the Freedom of Information Act 2000. This most notably provides us with the ability to ask any public body for information and they must provide it. Things such as the Expenses Scandal came to light, mainly through the hard work and persistence of Heather Brooke, the journalist who broke the story. Thus it works both ways, we should have our personal data protected and we should be able to find out what is going on with public bodies as it is tax payers money that is being used and in some cases wasted on duck ponds.

So now you know about all the things the companies we entrust with our details should be doing, however we all still get those calls at random hours of the day asking us if we want to buy windows or get our credit scores checked, or in my case being asked about that loan I supposedly took out a few years ago, if only they knew I wasn’t old enough to take out a loan a few years ago. Something is going wrong somewhere, but as with all crimes, something always goes wrong somewhere. Maybe this is just what we have to learn to deal with in this age of instant communication, or maybe something should be done. But what? The DPA 1998 is currently under review, however it is unlikely that anything will come from this until 2017 at the earliest, so don’t hold your breath… Really, don’t. I’m not even sure the Dr could pull that one off.

Until next time,

R

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