The Data Protection Act

A Summary

Key Words

Personal data: Personal data covers both facts and opinions about a living individual.

Data Subject: The person that data is being collected and stored on.

Data Processor/User: Someone who accesses, uses and or processes the personal data of individual as part of their job. For instance a school secretary needs to access children's contact details.

Data Controller: A person in an organisation who decides what data they need to collect and what it will be used for. They must apply for permission to collect data and are responsible any collection, storage and processing of data and making sure that these actions are done in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

Information Commissioner: This is the person in charge of enforcing the Data Protection Act in the UK. This is the person companies must apply to, to be allowed to collect data and he advises company's on issues regarding the DPA.

Data Protection Act 1998

Types Of Data Protected Under The DPA

Sensitive information that if a company collects it cannot disclose to anyone else:


  • Racial or ethnic origin
  • Membership of a trade union
  • Criminal convictions or offences
  • Political opinions
  • Religious beliefs


In other words:


  • Your beliefs (e.g. religion)
  • Your health (e.g. medical records)
  • Your money (e.g. bank balance)
  • Your education (e.g. exam results)
  • Your behaviour (e.g. speeding fine)
  • Your Work (e.g. employment records)

Your Rights

  • You have the right to see any data stored about you (sometimes at a small charge).
  • You have the right to rectify, block or remove incorrect data stored about you.
  • If you have been damaged or distressed because the DPA was contravened (not enforced).
  • You have the right to prevent processing of data that would damage or distress you.
  • You have the right to prevent processing of data for direct advertising (e.g. you can stop people using your personal data to target adverts at you, like nappies for a pregnant woman).
  • You have the right to stop companies from making decisions based on automated processing of your data (e.g. loan approval).