• Relevant legislation

    Acts that impact on the use of personal information.

    There are many pieces of legislation that impose restrictions or obligations on the use of personal information, a few with general application are shown below. Staff must ensure that they comply with any legislation that is specific to their area of expertise.

    Computer Misuse Act 1990

    There are three criminal offences under this Act: * "unauthorised access to computer material" (hacking); * "unauthorised access to computer material with intent to commit or facilitate commission of further offences" (e.g., hacking into a computer in order to commit theft by redirecting funds to own bank account, or to access confidential information in order to facilitate a blackmail scheme); * "unauthorised modification of computer material" (deliberate erasure or corruption of programs or data, including the introduction of a "worm" or "virus" into a computer).

    Contempt of Court Act 1981

    It is an offence to publish or distribute anything which may impede or prejudice active legal proceedings, either accidentally or deliberately.

    Defamation Act 1996

    What is libel? Libel consists of a defamatory statement or representation in permanent form, e.g., statements in books, articles, newspapers, letters, emails or on a Web page. Every repetition of the libel is a fresh publication. As a result, not only the author of an article, but also the editor, printer and publisher are liable. What to do when libel is suspected: If you suspect that a libel has been published, using University resources, it must be dealt with as quickly as possible. In particular, if it is published on a Web page, it must be removed from there immediately. It is important, therefore, to inform the relevant Head of School or Directorate, or the Information Compliance Officer, as quickly as possible.

    Criminal Justice Act 1988

    It is a criminal offence to distribute, possess or advertise indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children under 16. A pseudo-photograph is "an image, whether made by computer graphics or otherwise¦, which appears to be a photograph".

    Obscene Publications Act 1959

    It is an offence to publish an obscene article or item "an article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it."

    Protection from Harassment Act 1997

    It is an offence for a person to pursue a course of conduct "(a) which amounts to harassment of another, and (b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other." 'Harassment' is defined as behaviour causing alarm or distress. In addition to criminal offences the Act also authorises civil courts to award damages and make injunctions in harassment cases.

    Public Order Act 1986

    It is an offence to * display written material, or * publish or distribute written material, or * distribute, show or play a recording of visual images which are threatening, abusive or insulting and are intended to, or are likely to, stir up racial hatred. "Racial hatred" means hatred against a group of persons in Great Britain defined by reference to colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins.

    Approved by the Academic Board
    May 2001