Data Protection

Using personal information fairly and lawfully


One of the key provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 is that personal information must be used fairly and lawfully. You should tell individuals what you will use their personal information for, and make sure that your use of personal information does not break any other laws. When you obtain personal information, you must tell individuals:


  • the name of your business or organisation
  • what you use their information for
  • any other information needed to make your use of their personal information fair


You should also tell the individual that they have a right to access their information and have it corrected if it is factually inaccurate. You should explain any ways you may use the information that they might not expect. For example, you should tell them if you may pass the information to other organisations, or if it might be put on file at credit reference agencies.

Similarly, you should not use personal information for a reason an individual would not expect. This means that if you told an individual you would only send them direct marketing about your own products and services, you could not then pass that individual’s details to another organisation. However, if an individual has booked a holiday through your company, it is acceptable for you to send them a brochure about similar holidays next year, unless the individual had asked you not to send them marketing material in future.

Generally, you cannot pass individuals’ information to another business or organisation unless you have asked for – and they have given – their consent. However, there are exceptions to this. For example, if you are asked by the police for information about someone, you can provide this information without telling the individual if notifying them would be likely to prejudice the investigation or impede the prevention of a crime. Disclosures can also be made if they are necessary for a court case or to obtain legal advice, for example, in connection with an employment tribunal.