Identifying personal data using relational database design principles

Berčič, Boštjan and George, Carlisle ORCID logoORCID: (2009) Identifying personal data using relational database design principles. International Journal of Law and Information Technology, 17 (3) . pp. 233-251. ISSN 0967-0769 [Article] (doi:10.1093/ijlit/ean007)


The European Union (EU) directive on personal data and resulting data protection legislation of EU member states require from data controllers, a notification of their activities to the appropriate supervisory authority.
Included in this notification is also a description of the data or categories of data which are processed. Legislation in some EU member states (e.g. Slovenia) require that not only a description but also a concrete list of personal data attributes needs to be included in this notification. In such cases it is sometimes difficult to ascertain in concrete whether some collected attribute represents personal data (and should therefore be included in the list of attributes) or whether it is a non-personal attribute. Similarly, under the EU directive data subjects have various rights, including the right to access their data, and data controllers are sometimes faced with the problem of determining whether various data items constitute personal data. Further, the impending case in the European Court of Human Rights arising out of the decision of the UK case of Durant v Financial Services Authority (which narrowed the scope of personal data) has added some uncertainty to the interpretation of the EU directive. In view of the legal uncertainty regarding what constitutes personal data, this paper examines whether relational database design principles can be applied to identifying personal data. Using this approach, the paper explores various parallels between personal data identification and principles of relational database design. The paper thus makes a novel contribution to the ongoing uncertainty in data protection law. The paper also discusses the wider issue of applying computing/scientific principles to interpreting the law.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Computer Science > Artificial Intelligence group
A. > School of Science and Technology > Computer Science > Aspects of Law and Ethics Related to Technology group
A. > School of Science and Technology > Computer Science
Item ID: 5145
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Carlisle George
Date Deposited: 26 Apr 2010 09:46
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2016 14:19

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