Frequently Asked Questions

What is personal data?

A member of staff has collapsed and the emergency services need information about the individual, I am aware of the Data Protection Act, can I give this information?

I have taken some photo’s of a recent field trip of a small group of students, can I include them within the departmental magazine?

I wrote an email to a colleague. Am I right in thinking that the Data Protection Act 1998 doesn’t cover personal data contained in emails?

I have draft reports and informal notes that I have written that contain personal information relating to others. In the event of a subject access request being received, would these have to be disclosed to those individuals?

What is personal data?
Personal data, within the context of the Data Protection Act 1998, refers to data which relates to a living individual who can be identified:

  • From those data
  • From those data and other information which in the possession of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the Data Controller
  • Including any expression of opinion about the individual and any indication of hte intentions of the data

A member of staff has collapsed and the emergency services need information about the individual, can I provide this information?

If a member of staff, student or visitor has a serious accident or is seriously ill, the police or other emergency services may require personal information about the individual(s) concerned as without it, there is a likelihood that the individual could die. In these circumstances, a member of staff who has access to this information can legally disclose the relevant information.

I have taken some photographs on a recent field trip of a small group of students, can I include them within the departmental magazine?

Photographs of individuals are considered to be personal information. If the individuals are identifiable then the consent of the individual should be obtained and they should be informed as to what the photos will be used for, in what media it will be used in the future (such as on the website or prospectus) and how widespread it will be available (whether locally, nationally or worldwide).

I wrote an email to a colleague. Am I right in thinking that the Data Protection Act 1998 doesn’t cover personal data contained in emails?:

Staff must be mindful when sending emails from their University accounts as personal information included could be disclosed within a Subject Access Request if the email was sent from a University account. Opinions on inidividuals are considered as being personal information and therefore the individual would be making a valid request if they asked for any emails that made reference to them.

I have draft reports and informal notes that I have written that contain personal information relating to others. In the event of a subject access request being received, would these have to be disclosed to these individuals?

If information is held by the University on third parties then in most circumstances this information would be disclosed. It does not matter if this information is held on a draft report or is a record made of an informal conversation, the fact that the information is recorded means that the University would have to be obliged to release this information.

Rhys Davies
Information Compliance Manager
01443 482966

or e-mail: dataprotection@southwales.ac.uk

Emergency Situations

If a member of staff, student or visitor has a serious accident or is seriously ill, the police or other emergency services may require personal information about the individual(s) concerned and may not have time to complete a formal written request. In these circumstances, a member of staff who has access to this information can legally disclose the relevant information.

Sponsors or Embassies

We cannot pass any personal information about a student to a Sponsor or Embassy without the student’s consent. However, there may be a contract between the student and the Sponsor or Embassy where the Student has given permission for the Sponsor or Embassy to request examination or coursework results in order to comply with the contract.

Employers

We cannot release this information without the individuals consent. You should ask the student if the information can be disclosed or ask the requestor for written permission from the student. However, a student may have a contract with their employer that allows the employer to have access to any coursework or exam results. If there is a signed contract between the parties you may disclose information to the employer as the student has given permission within the contract.

Parent/Family Member

We cannot release information without the permission of the student. If a student wishes a family member or friend to receive information on their behalf they should provide a signed letter of confirmation to the University informing us of this.