DCC Briefing Paper: Data Protection
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The Data Protection Act 1998 ("the DPA") is a piece of UK legislation designed to strike a balance between the interests of the individual in maintaining privacy over their personal details and the possibly competing interests of those with legitimate reasons for using other people's personal information. The DPA places obligations on people and organisations that process personal data and in addition gives individuals certain positive rights in relation to data pertaining to them. Amongst other things, individuals may request access to such data and the data controller (the term used in the DPA to describe the person who determines the purpose for which data is processed) is obliged to respond to this request within 40 calendar days. The relationship between data protection and digital curation is mutually beneficial. In one respect, robust digital curation practices together with good records management play an important part in ensuring that the provisions of the DPA can be met. From the other perspective, knowledge of the DPA is important for someone engaged in curation activity where they are curating data that is covered by the Act (perhaps they are a researcher who uses personal data in their research). In such cases, an awareness of the constraints imposed by the legislation and how it impacts the way the data can be used is crucial.