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Data privacy

Data Privacy refers to the evolving relationship between technology and the legal right to, or public expectation of privacy in the collection and sharing of data.

Privacy problems exist wherever uniquely identifiable data relating to a person or persons is collected and stored, in digital form or otherwise. Improper or non-existent disclosure control can be the root cause for privacy issues. The most common sources of data that are affected by data privacy issues are:

  • Health information
  • Criminal justice
  • Financial information
  • Genetic information

This area of study is at a primitive stage with very few notable legislations. In the United Kingdom the Data Protection Act[?] was enacted in 1998 following European Union Data Protection Legislation enacted in 1995.

According to the office of the Information Commissioner there are a number of key principles which must be complied with. They are as follows:

Anyone processing personal data must comply with the eight enforceable principles of good practice. They say that data must be:

  • fairly and lawfully processed;
  • processed for limited purposes;
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive;
  • accurate;
  • not kept longer than necessary;
  • processed in accordance with the data subject's rights;
  • secure;
  • not transferred to countries without adequate protection.
Personal data covers both facts and opinions about the individual. It also includes information regarding the intentions of the data controller towards the individual, although in some limited circumstances exemptions will apply. With processing, the definition is far wider than before. For example, it incorporates the concepts of 'obtaining', holding' and 'disclosing'. For more details on these data principles, visit the web site of the Information Commissioner (http://www.dataprotection.gov.uk/principl.htm)

The right to privacy is often viewed differently based on the cultural context; very few governments recognise an individual's right to privacy, a notable exception being California.

The challenege in data privacy is to share data while protecting the personally idetifiable information. Consider the example of health data that is collected from hospitals in a district; it is standard practice to share this only in the aggregate. The idea of sharing the data in the aggregate is to ensure that only de-identified data is shared.

See also:

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