In 2006, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to introduce a a Data Protection Day, to be held each year on the 28th January. The idea behind Data Protection day is to celebrate our right to data protection and raise awareness of the law in this area. The day was not chosen as random: 28th January is the anniversary of Council of Europe's Convention 108 for the Protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data. This highly relevant piece of legislation has been the foundation and cornerstone for data protection and privacy for more than 30 years, not just in Europe, but all over the world. Data protection day is now celebrated globally, but outside of Europe it is known as “Privacy Day”. The Council of Europe described the importance of this day, saying:
“The Data Protection Day should be a special occasion, a time set aside by each and every one of us to familiarise ourselves with a largely unknown, yet major, facet of our everyday lives.”
At Unlock the Law, we are participating in Data Protection day by doing what we do best - providing you with information on your rights and responsibilities under the law.
Why is Data Protection Day important?
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Data Protection Day, and like every other year, all across the world events will be held to raise awareness about data protection. Data protection is a bigger part of our lives than most people realise. You will come across data protection issues at work, when browsing the internet, when dealing with public authorities, when you receive medical care, when you shop, when you travel and in many other circumstances. As digitalisation increases, more and more of our data is being captured. How this data is used and held is becoming increasingly important. It is well known, however, that European citizens are unaware of the law and their rights in relation to data protection - even where their rights are being violated.
Even more concerning, is that many people responsible for data are not aware of their rights and breach data protection laws on a daily basis, completely unaware. Data protection day is important as it raises awareness of good practice in data protection and citizens rights under the law.
Data Protection Law, UK
In the UK, the Data protection Act takes care of how your information is used by the government, organisations or businesses. This who are responsible for handling data must abide by strict rules, called ‘data protection principles’. Under these rules, those responsible must ensure data is:
- Used lawfully and fairly
- Used for limited and specifically stated purposes
- Used in a way that is adequate, relevant and not excessive
- Kept for no longer than is absolutely necessary
- Handled in accordance with data protection rights
- Kept safe and secure
- Not transferred outside the European Economic Area without adequate protection
Sensitive information is subject to further protection. Sensitive information includes:
- Ethnic background
- Political opinions
- Religious beliefs
- Sexual health
- Criminal records
Can I find out what data an organisation has about me?
Under the data protection act, you have the right to find out what information and organisation or the government has about you.
In order to get this information, you can write to the organisation and ask for a copy of the information they hold about you. You should address your letter to the company secretary. If you make such a request, the organisation is required by law to provide you with a copy of the information they hold about you.
However, there are some situations where information may be with held, including where the information is about:
- The prevention, detection or investigation of a crime
- National security
- Judicial or ministerial appointments
The organisation does not have to let you know why they are withholding the information.
Can I make a complaint about how my data is handled?
If you think your data is being misused or not kept secure, your first step should be to contact the organisation and let them know. If you are unhappy with the outcome, or if you need any advice on the matter, you should contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on 0303 123 1113.
The ICO will investigate your claim and take action against the organisation that has misused your data. V
Find out more about what’s going in aid of Data Protection Day on the Council of Europe's website.