Section 18: The Law

Data Protection Act


This act protects individuals' privacy by regulating how personal information, known in the act as 'personal data', is collected and used.  The act applies to information stored electronically or in manual systems.

'Personal data' is any information that relates to a living individual who can be identified:

  • from that information, or
  • from that and other information in our possession or likely to come into our possession.

Personal data can include:

  • email addresses or telephone numbers, collected when people enter competitions, sign up for a newsletter or become part of a programme's database of contributors
  • information about people we collect for use in content, including images and sound recordings. 


The act requires that personal information is:

  • collected and used fairly (i.e. we make it clear to people how we intend to use their information and whether it will be given to anyone else inside or outside the BBC)
  • appropriate to the uses which have been agreed
  • not excessive (i.e. we only collect and use the data necessary for the BBC's purposes)
  • accurate
  • stored for the minimum time relevant to the use for which it is collected
  • stored and used securely, for example, by using encrypted memory sticks or CD- ROMs and in accordance with any further applicable guidelines issued by the BBC
  • disposed of securely once the use for which it has been collected has come to an end
  • protected by a contract, if it is being given to an agent of the BBC (for example, to distribute tickets or conduct surveys) or to a third party, to ensure the information is only used for the purpose the BBC has agreed. A contract or other special arrangements are also needed if personal information is being sent to a third party or agent of the BBC located outside the EU.

(See Section 7 Privacy: 7.4.45 - 7.4.54)


Material acquired and used for journalistic, artistic or literary purposes is exempt if compliance with the act would frustrate those purposes.  For example, we do not need the consent of someone being filmed committing crime.  It must be incompatible with the journalistic, artistic or literary purpose to comply with the Act - inconvenience is not enough.  Note that the requirement to store and use data securely applies at all times.


People have certain rights under the act in relation to information stored about them and can make a request to the BBC to be provided with a copy of that information.

Any formal requests for information or notices to stop processing under the act must be referred in good time to the Information Policy & Compliance Department (IPC). 


IPC or the Commercial and Regulatory Legal department can advise on queries about the act.