What is data protection and how does it relate to cookie law? [White-Paper]

What is data protection and how does it relate to cookie law? [White-Paper]

Posted on May 29, 2015

What is data protection?

The term ‘data protection’ probably feels a bit like ‘health & safety’ in that it’s seen quite frequently in a negative light – you don’t do that because of health & safety or you can’t do this because of data protection.


It might be quite deserving in some instances: one particular example is that of my baby nephew, who had a savings account opened his name when he was born. When setting it up, his mother checked that the baby himself wouldn’t need to phone up and manage the account (after all, how could he?). She was reassured that she would be able to do it on his behalf and, so, was pretty stunned when she phoned back a few months later to check the balance and was told “Sorry, as you’re not the account holder, I can’t disclose those details to you. Can I speak to the account holder instead?” Whilst tempted to put her 6 month old son on the phone to babble, she decided that it wasn’t all that likely to be successful!

Data protection is actually something designed to keep us (ie, all living individuals) safe by setting the rules on how information about us can be stored, shared or used. It also grants you rights to see what information is held about you and to make sure that data held about you is correct. This is all controlled by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) and they also maintain the Data Protection Register – officially known as the Register of Data Controllers (aka the list of companies who process personal data).

Managing a safe but balanced approach to data protection is a bit tricky as it’s constantly shifting with new tech innovations and changes in people’s habits.


This means that you have to stay on your toes. Here’s a flick tip for you: technically speaking, it’s perfectly legal for someone to tweet you and request their data (aka make a Subject Access Request). How would you respond to that? Perhaps consider a review of your Data Protection Policy to include what to do in that scenario, so staff don’t unwittingly handle it in the wrong way.

Another example of data protection in the modern age is Cookie Law. Technically speaking, this is actually called the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 (UK Regulations). But Cookie Law is more fun and much less of a mouthful so let’s stick with that instead. What are cookies? This was a question we put to a group of teenagers a few weeks ago and this definition is, by far, the best:

“Data a website stored from your searches on the internet.


Amazing biscuits that taste amazing.”

While I wish we were talking about the amazing biscuits, we’re actually talking about the data stored by websites and an organisation’s legal obligations around their use. Specifically, a Privacy Policy must detail which cookies are used, why they’re used and for what purpose. It’s also why you now see cookie warnings pop-up on most websites (which incidentally, is a cookie itself...)




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