What is the Data Protection Act about?
The Data Protection Act became law on 1 March 2000, and all its provisions were fully activated by October 2001.
The Act gives rules for the way organisations treat personal information about living individuals. It applies to information on computers and certain types of paper filing systems.
Watford Borough Council needs personal information about its citizens and all other people who do business with the Council in order to perform our statutory duties and provide our services. We only collect and use this information in ways that the law allows. The Act is there to make sure personal information is used by those who collect it fairly and correctly.
The Eight Principles
The Data Protection Act states that anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles, which make sure that personal information is:
- Fairly and lawfully processed
Processed for specified and lawful purposes
- Adequate, relevant and not excessive
- Accurate and up to date
- Not kept for longer than is necessary
- Processed in line with your rights
- Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection
What information do we have to keep?
The information we keep can include:
- Forms completed and given to us by the public in order to receive a service from us
- Incoming letters and emails
- Notes of information given verbally by the public (either in person or by telephone)
- Details of any checks made to ensure the information we have is correct
- Information supplied about individuals or organisations by third parties
- Computer and paper records on those who do business with the Council
The law says we can sometimes share information with other organisations, such as the Benefits Agency, Inland Revenue, etc. This can be done because:
- The individual concerned has given permission
- The law says we have to
- A Court Order says it is necessary
- The Council has requested another organisation to undertake the service on its behalf or jointly with it
Watford Borough Council will generally not disclose information about an individual outside of the organisation unless one or all of the above criteria apply.
How can the public find out about information we hold?
The act allows members of the public to find out what information we hold about them on computer and in some paper records. This is known as the 'Right of Subject Access'.
If as a member of the public, you wish to see the information we hold about you, you will need to complete the following steps:
- Submit a Subject Access Request in writing (by letter, email or fax)
- Try to tell us exactly what information you wish to see. It may help to know which area of service you are interested in, e.g. Council Tax, Housing, Planning, etc. This will help us provide a better service because we may not need to ask for further information
- You will be required to pay a Subject Access fee of £10. This must be paid at the time of your request by enclosing a cheque or postal order made payable to ‘Watford Borough Council’. Payment can also be made by telephone using a debit or credit card
- You must provide us with proof of identity and address. For example, your full name, address and a copy of your driving licence
- If appropriate, you may be asked for other reference numbers such as a benefit or housing reference number. This may help to speed up the information gathering process and thus provide a better service
- We have 40 days in which to respond you; commencing from the date we receive your request, with all information together with your fee.
What if the information we hold is incorrect?
If you believe that the information we hold is incorrect, you have a right to ask for it to be corrected. You will be informed as to what has been done within 21 days of receipt of your request. If we do not agree that the information is incorrect, you have the right to ask that we note your disagreement and hold that with the record. You also have the right to appeal to the Information Commissioner or the courts. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
The Information Officer’s Office
Cheshire SK9 5AF
Telephone: 01625 545745
Claims for compensation
If the Council has broken any the rules or conditions of the Act and you can prove substantial damage or distress as a result of this, you may have a right to compensation. A claim for compensation may also be valid if the damage or distress was caused by inaccurate data.
Confidentiality and Data Matching
Watford Borough Council collects information for a wide variety of purposes, including Housing, Council Tax, Environmental Health, Planning, and other services. The information we collect will depend upon the individual’s business with the Council, but may be used for any of the Council’s purposes.