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Who holds personal information

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Data Protection: Understanding the Importance of Personal Data Regulation


From the earliest stages of life, various organisations and bodies collect data about individuals. This information is gathered from a wide array of sources, including:

  • Airlines
  • Banks
  • Car repairers
  • Schools
  • Doctors
  • Clubs and associations
  • Credit card providers
  • Dentists
  • Estate agents
  • Gas and electric companies
  • Hospitals
  • Inland revenue
  • Insurance companies
  • Employers
  • Supermarkets
  • And many more

While much of the information held about individuals is considered highly confidential, it is essential to control and regulate personal data to prevent unwanted disclosures and safeguard privacy.

The Data Protection Act

The Data Protection Act establishes a framework of rights and duties aimed at safeguarding the collection and usage of personal data by organisations. It ensures a balance between business needs and individual privacy rights, prohibiting the release or sharing of personal information without prior consent.

Under the Act, data refers to information collected or intended to be held on a computer, including data recorded on paper for computer input or held in a structured format, such as part of a filing system. This encompasses various records, including health, education, housing, and social services.

Types of Data

The Data Protection Act categorises data into two main types:

  • Personal Data: Information from which an individual can be identified, including opinions and intentions regarding the individual.
  • Sensitive Data: Personal data containing sensitive information, such as racial or ethnic origin, religious beliefs, political opinions, trade union membership, physical or mental health, or sexual life.

Sensitive data receives increased legal protection under the Act, with specific obligations outlined for its handling and processing.