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The Data Protection Act -

Some Implications for convention running

by Andy Croft.

The Data Protection Act requires all organisations that hold personal data on computer to register. There is an exemption clause for people who use a computer to hold their personal address book etc. providing it is NOT on behalf of a club, employer or voluntary organisation. The way I interpret this is that a convention Committee must register as an organisation, but not the individual committee members. That is of course if they use computers to handle memberships etc. If it is only accounting details on the machine, then it is possible that they will not have to register.

The other possible way that registration may be avoided is if the convention can be considered an unincorporated club. If it falls into this category then a simple question "Do you object to the details being held on computer?" will cover, providing that any that do object are removed from the machine. It is also recommended that the rules of disclosure of the information be agreed and made known i.e. print of membership list for use by members only. I suspect that it would be very difficult to claim that convention running comes into this category, especially the larger conventions.

Some other requirements are: Security of information - you must be able to show that you have taken reasonable precautions to prevent unauthorised access to the data. Data that is no longer required for the purpose for which it was collected is deleted i.e. after the convention is wound up all the personal data MUST be deleted. I suspect that a serial convention would have to ask the specific question of members.

From the last, I suspect that it would make sense for Unicons and Easter conventions that may wish to use rolling mailing lists, would need to register as holding organisations. This may be a way of reducing the individual registration costs for a given convention. Any prospective bidder registers with the holding organisation and is covered henceforth. Obviously, if they lose the bid there must be a cutoff time for them to delete any files they have on pre-supporters etc. This suggestion would have to be cleared by the Registrar I think, just to be on the safe side.

Some other exemptions are: The use of a wordprocessor to prepare text does not require registration. Mailing lists providing they do not contain anything other than name, address and telephone number. If it has any other use or contains any other data the exemption fails. Data may be held for statistical research providing it is not used for any other purpose and results do not give any identification of the source data.

For further information or registration contact:

The Office of the Data Protection Registrar,

Springfield House,

Water Lane,

Wilmslow,

Cheshire,

SK9 5AX.

Enquiries: 0625 535777


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This page updated on 09 July 1999