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A basic and brief overview of the Data Protection Act


Most IT Trainers have to have a brief understanding or even documentation covering the Data Protection Act, so here is some information that may help with clarifying this complex act even further.

Any data held on living individuals can be subject to complex laws, therefore the law defines ‘data held on identifiable individuals’ have to be informed of to the Data Protection Commissioner.

What is the Data Protection Act?
The Act is concerned about data covering individuals, it may not be particularly sensitive, it may just be a name and address, however, under the Act, individuals have the right to access any information held about them. This also ensures that people who process the data have to follow proper procedures and are open to the reasons why they have the information and how they are to use it. This law extends to all businesses, no matter the size. To register with the Data Protection Commissioner currently costs around £35 per year.

There is a fine for failing to notify the Data Protection Commissioner and it can be up to £5,000. You may be exempt from notification, even though you will still need to comply with the principles of the law.

If you are using data for core business purposes only, including staff administration (of all employees, office holders, temporary and casual workers, agents and volunteers) accounts and records, advertising, marketing and PR, you may be exempt. Therefore if you only hold information to market your own products and services, you are unlikely to need to notify the Data Protection Commissioner.

You are also exempt from the Act if you process data for personal, family or recreational use e.g. your personal address list, Christmas card list, data held in connection with a hobby. Data held for professional or business purposes, will not be exempt.

You are also exempt if you are a small club, voluntary organisation or church administration, some charities are also exempt.

You are not exempt if you use personal data on computer for:

  • trading in and sharing personal information,
  • legal services,
  • private investigations,
  • crime prevention and the prosecution of offenders,
  • health administration,
  • education,
  • research,
  • pastoral care'
  • consultancy and advisory services,
  • the provision of financial services and advice.

Further information is available here at


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