The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) which came fully into force on 24 October 2001 replaces and builds on the earlier 1984 Act which arose out of concerns that the power of computers to manipulate information was threatening the privacy of individuals. This perception has grown in the intervening years and European Directive 94/46/EC extended the scope of data protection to include all personal data held about individuals, however it was stored. It also added constraints on transferring data outside the European Union.
The DPA regulates the processing of data about individuals in particular the protection of privacy. The DPA has an impact on all our lives ranging from our financial and health details to information about the environment in which we live. Natural England requires a huge quantity of data to carry out its day-to-day business and a good proportion of this will not be affected by the DPA. However, a significant amount does lie within the boundaries of the DPA and Natural England as a statutory body has a repsonsibility to ensure that the data is used in compliance with the DPA. As even more compelling reason is that failure to comply with the DPA can result in a criminal prosecution or claims for compensation.