Feeds

ICO issues data protection guidance for SMEs

It's just run of the mill business

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Small companies should try to answer data protection queries in the normal course of business rather than treat them as formal requests, according to advice published by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

The ICO has issued guidelines (PDF) to help small companies deal with requests for information under the Data Protection Act (DPA). Aware that small companies can often feel overwhelmed by such requests and the complexity of the Act, the ICO has advised that as many requests as possible be treated informally.

"Individuals have a right under the Act to make a request in writing for a copy of the information you hold about them on computer and in some manual filing systems," explains the advice. "This is called a subject access request. They are also entitled to be given a description of the information, what you use it for, who you might pass it on to, and any information you have about the source of the information.

"Where you are happy to provide the information requested it often makes sense to do so as part of your normal course of business, rather than treating any written request for personal information as a formal request under the Act."

That informal process involves simply giving out the information, such as a guarantee number for a fridge or simple information related to a service that a company provides to an individual.

More complicated requests which are made formal can involve more data and can trigger some fixed rules. If you charge a fee for processing information, which can only be up to £10, you must provide the information within 40 days of receiving that fee, for example.

The guidance also says that any codes used in the data held by a company must be fully explained so that the person receiving the information is able to make full sense of it.

Companies must also be careful when providing information that involves a third party. Unless it has the explicit permission of a third party to pass on data to the requester, the company must black out that information, while providing as full a disclosure as it can to the person who made the request.

"The Data Protection Act gives us all important rights, enabling us to check the personal information that is held about us and to correct that information where necessary," said David Smith, the Deputy Information Commissioner. "This guidance sets out clear advice for small and medium sized businesses to help them deal with requests from individuals for access to information an SME might keep about them."

The guidance says a company that is confused about exactly what an individual wants from a request should seek clarification, and that it should ensure that its staff are trained to recognise a subject access request when they see one.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Reducing security risks from open source software

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330
If the person in front reclines their seat, this could get interesting
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
US freemium mobile network eyes up Europe
FreedomPop touts 'free' calls, texts and data
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.