Preservation for research purposes
According to the fifth data protection principle (cf. Schedule 1, part 1 (5)), personal data shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for the original purpose or purposes. However, this principle does not apply to personal data processed only for research purposes (Bristol 2014a). Research activity is exempt from this requirement provided that it has met all the conditions for exemption for research, history and statistics purposes (cf. Section 33 of the DPA). See: Conditions for exemption for research purposes
Moreover, the ICO asserts that there are often good grounds for keeping personal data for historical, statistical or research purposes. In their Guide to Data Protection, the ICO states:
“The Data Protection Act provides that personal data held for these purposes [i.e. historical, statistical or research purposes] may be kept indefinitely as long as it is not used in connection with decisions affecting particular individuals, or in a way that is likely to cause damage or distress. This does not mean that the information may be kept forever – it should be deleted when it is no longer needed for historical, statistical or research purposes” (ICO).
Preservation of confidential personal data
According to the UK Data Archive website, the following key principles are relevant for sharing and archiving of confidential research data:
- a duty of confidentiality towards informants and participants,
- a duty to protect participants from harm, by not disclosing sensitive information,
- a duty to treat participants as intelligent beings, able to make their own decisions on how the information they provide can be used, shared and made public (through informed consent),
- a duty to inform participants how information and data obtained will be used, processed, shared, disposed of, prior to obtaining consent,
- a duty to wider society to make available resources produced by researchers with public funds (data sharing required by research funders) (Data Archive UK 2014 b)).
The UK Data Protection Act 1998:
University of Bristol 2014a. Research Guidelines: section 33 exemption [Internet], University of Bristol. Available at: http://www.bris.ac.uk/secretary/dataprotection/research/guidelines.html, [accessed on June 19 2014.]
ICO. The Guide to Data Protection [Internet]. Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Available at: http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/data_protection/~/media/documents/library/Data_Protection/Practical_application/the_guide_to_data_protection.pdf, [Accessed June 19 2014].
Data Archive UK 2014 b). Ethical/legal overview [Internet]. Data Archive UK. Available at: http://www.data-archive.ac.uk/create-manage/consent-ethics/legal?index=0, [accessed on June 19 2014.]