I note that in the current FOI bill all public bodies have the coverage of
Data Protection extended to "unstructured" data too.
(unstructured = not forming part of a set of structured information)
I'm not sure if universities are treated as public bodies for this piece of
legislation but if so it might make some of this debate academic.
I can highlight FOI amendments if you need details.
Terry Street Acting ALM Coventry
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: [log in to unmask]
> [SMTP:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Monday, October 04, 1999 4:59 PM
> To: Charles Oppenheim
> Cc: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: Exam scripts - Personal Data Exempt - Marks Not
> Charles Oppenheim wrote:
> I don't understand this argument. The student is identifiable because on
> the front of the exam paper is his/her name or some other method of
> identifying him/her such as a registration number. A set of exam scripts
> form a database that is searchable by student name. So, the student is
> certainly identifiable from other data in the data controller's posession.
> Ergo, the examination comments are personal data. To argue that "because
> the comments *on their own* do not allow the student to be identified
> the comments are not personal data" seems nonsensical to me. Or am I
> missing something here?
> Professor Charles Oppenheim
> Dept of Information Science
> Loughborough University
> Leics LE11 3TU
> Tel 01509-223065
> Fax 01509-223053
> If the definition of 'personal data' is interpreted strictly, for the
> comment to qualify as 'personal data' the student must be identifiable
> from the comment and other data in the data controller's possession.
> The definition is conjunctive. It uses 'and', not 'or'.
> Your argument is that the student is identifiable because on the front of
> the exam paper is his/her name or some other method of identifying him/her
> such as a registration number.
> If you use that information you are not using the comment at all to
> identify the individual.
> If the definition said the individual had to be identifiable 'from that
> data or other data', the position would be different.
> Assume the comment is 'Good analysis'. Assuming that comment can be
> considered to 'relate' to the individual, it still does not help identify
> an individual.
> It also does not aid identification even when combined with other
> information which does, such as the information on the front of the exam
> I agree the argument does seem strange. Part of the answer must be to
> read the 'and' as not exclusively conjunctive, but as meaning 'and/or'.
> Additionally, perhaps it is not valid to attempt to break up the data into
> discrete blocks and attempt to decide which data qualify under the DPA 98
> as 'personal' and which do not.
> Both these latter approaches have the disadvantage for the data controller
> (and advantage for the data subject) of making a wider data set fall
> within the definition of 'personal data'. They are also a matter of
> construction and interpretation as the DPA 98 does not contain a complete
> Clifford G. Miller
> CLIFFORD MILLER
> Coborn House
> Coborn Road
> London E3 2DA
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