Legal Updates

Data Protection - ICO Guidance – Personal Information – Data Security – Deleting Personal Data – Data Protection Act 1998


The Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) recently published guidance on deleting personal data under the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA”) ensuring compliance with the fifth data protection principle.


The ICO’s guidance addresses the distinction that many organisations make in practice, between deleting information and archiving it.


Fifth Principle


Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes.


The guidance can be found here, but some of the key points are as follows:


  • Data that is archived must still comply with the rules of data protection.
  • It is important to provide clear information to individuals about the process that will occur when e.g. their online accounts are closed and if their data will be irretrievably deleted or simply archived.
  • It is important to be clear with individuals about whether deletions are irretrievable or if the organisation will have a method of recovering and re-instating the data.
  • Compliance issues with the DPA are no longer in effect when the data is no longer “live,” meaning the data has been put “beyond use” and is in a queue for deletion.

o   Data is “beyond use” when it is inaccessible to any data controllers within the organisation and to external parties; the data is secured with the appropriate technical and organisational safeguards; and is committed to deletion at the earliest convenience.

o   The ICO is aware that in certain circumstances, deletion of data is not always a straightforward task. In such instances, efforts by the organisation to put the data “beyond use” are encouraged by the ICO.


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© RT COOPERS, 2012. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.


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