Although the UK does not have privacy laws in place, protection has been provided to individuals in the courts under the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Data Protection Act 1998.
The Human Rights Act provides protection to an individual's privacy under:
Article 8 'Right to respect for private and family life' and has been applied successfully in recent cases (usually concerning celebrities).
Alternatively, Article 9, Freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and Article 10, Freedom of expression also provide the freedoms for individuals to practice and express their thoughts and opinions. However there are duties and responsibilities attached to observe the rights and freedoms of others and 'for the protection of public health and morals, the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence'.
The Data Protection Act 1998 protects individuals from the retention or use of their personal data without consent or their prior knowledge.
Personal Data can be a fact or a combination of facts that make a person identifiable to others e.g.
- Name, Address, Telephone No. Date of Birth, Ethnic Origin, Religion, Qualifications
- Work place, educational establishment, course or membership to an organisation.
- Medical details or history
- Image - photograph or film
- the sound of someone's voice
In order to collect, retain or use any such personal data, consent must be obtained from the individual using a release form.
Before using collecting or data or images relating to children, prior consent must be obtained from the parents or guardians.
Because of the ease of contributing to Social Media sites such as Facebook, Beebo, Twitter, YouTube etc. it's quite often forgotten that personal comments and opinions are being published openly to the public and potentially to the world.
Discussion boards and chat rooms are equally public even if only accessible to a select group, therefore caution should be exercised when posting comments.
Beware! If a comment is made about another person and that person takes offence or claims damage to their reputation, they may pursue a legal action for defamation.
Where a freedom of information request is made to the University, the item must be provided. However if fulfilling the request infringes Copyright or the item in question contains confidential information about an individual, this information must be masked or excluded.
There are various exemptions and exceptions as to what can or cannot be provided which can be found via the ICO website (Information Commissioners Office) and the Hints for practitioners handling FOI and EIR requests Guidelines