The International Campaign for Real History
Amendments to the Data Protection Act

covering manually kept data files

E-mail to David Irving from the Data Protection Registrar, May 21, 1998




1. The current Data Protection Act 1984 does not cover manual records. It only covers personal data, that is information held in an automatically processable form which relates to living identifiable individuals.

2. Article 2 of the Directive 95/46/EC states that " 'personal data' shall mean any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person". The Directive applies to "any structured set of personal data which are accessible according to specific criteria".

3. Article 32(2) of the Directive allows Member States to provide that "the processing of data already held in manual filing systems" need not be brought into conformity with Articles 6, 7 and 8 until 2007. These Articles set out the principles relating to data quality, the criteria for making data processing legitimate, and the basis on which special categories of data may be processed.

4. It was maintained by some that these provisions would only require a limited extension of data protection regulation to manual records. On a narrow interpretation information in a card index system and certain information on the cover of a file would be covered. However, on this analysis information recorded on documents arranged chronologically within a file would not. Whether or not this is the correct interpretation of the Directive it is hard to see how it makes practical sense.

5. Naturally many data users are anxious to have a clear understanding of the extent to which manual records will be covered in future. For that reason we thought it might be helpful if we put forward our provisional interpretation of the relevant provisions in the current Bill.

6. Clause 1(1) defines "data". Clauses 1(1)(a) and (b) cover information that is being, or is intended to be, automatically processed. Clause (1)(c) states that " 'data' means information which ... is recorded as part of a relevant filing system or with the intention that it should form a part of a relevant filing system".

7. The term "relevant filing system" is defined as "any set of information relating to individuals to the extent that, although the information is not processed by means of equipment operating automatically in response to instructions given for that purpose, the set is structured, either by reference to individuals or by reference to criteria relating to individuals, in such a way that specific information relating to a particular individual is readily accessible".

8. "'Specific' information is intended to mean ... distinct information within a file which can be distinguished from other information in the file and separately accessed. It means information of a distinct identity which sets it apart from the rest of the generality of personal information held.' It is the Government's intention that the definition should not capture a miscellaneous collection of information about an individual, where, even if the individual's name or other identifier is on the front of the file, specific data about that individual cannot be accessed without reading through those papers.


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