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Subject:

Re: anonymized data - still contravene DPA?

From:

davidwyatt <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

davidwyatt <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 23 Mar 2004 23:04:04 -0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (99 lines)

Victoria

My observation

Re the para :

''There is NOT sufficient personal detail in the thesis for a person to be
identified and the individuals mentioned in the thesis are anonymized - but
the examiners are saying that they could be identified by someone who has
knowledge of the author's employment.''

If this is true and your organisation really cannot identify a living
individudual from the total set of data in their possession then the data is
not personal data in your possession and the Act will not apply to you for
this set of data. If there is no personal data there can be no 'controller'.

If a Third Party combines the thesis data with other data in their
possession ie a name / address or other unique identifier  to enable a
living individual to be uniquely identified (correctly or not) they become a
data controller and subject to the Acts obligations. The way in which the
Act is drafted you have no responsibility over how other legal entities
combine and match data to create personal data about living individuals.

David Wyatt

----- Original Message -----
From: "Victoria Hayes" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, March 23, 2004 2:19 PM
Subject: [data-protection] anonymized data - still contravene DPA?


Hi everyone

I would appreciate your views on the below, particularly from other Higher
Education institutions that might of dealt with this issue before......

An external examiner for a thesis has recommended that the thesis be
withheld from the library (and therefore the public domain) as it may be
possible for someone with knowledge of the author's previous employment to
identify particular individuals, and this would contravene the DPA.

Is this so?  I'm not sure it's as clear-cut as that?

There is NOT sufficient personal detail in the thesis for a person to be
identified and the individuals mentioned in the thesis are anonymized - but
the examiners are saying that they could be identified by someone who has
knowledge of the author's employment.

The type of information in the thesis is primarily the author's views about
how they managed the work of teacher x, or about the culture of school A
which was being influenced by teacher y,etc.

The basis of the thesis did not involve interviewing or collecting data from
individuals, but is based on the author's observations & views etc.
Therefore consent to publish was never obtained at the outset & would be
impractical to obtain now.

Clearly the University wants to make the thesis publicly available as the
work could be of benefit to other researchers.  However, since we would
never know whether a given person seeking access had sufficient knowledge of
the author's employment to be able to identify individuals - would we have
to issue a blanket ban on access to the dissertation?  I think not - but I'm
really not sure.

Your comments would be most appreciated.

Thanks
Victoria

Victoria Hayes Tel (01392) 263355
Data Protection Officer
University of Exeter
Northcote House
Queens Drive
Exeter EX4 4QJ

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