Data protection: terminology
This page provides readers with the definitions of words and phrases that appear in our Data Protection policy, our procedures and our web-pages.
All references to the University in this policy mean the Heriot-Watt University Group i.e.
The definition of information includes, but is not confined to, paper and electronic documents and records, email, voicemail, still and moving images and sound recordings, biometric or genetic data, the spoken word, data stored on computers or tapes, transmitted across networks, printed out or written on paper, carried on portable devices, sent by post, courier or fax, posted onto intranet or internet sites or communicated using social media.
Information in any format that relates to an identified or identifiable living person. An identifiable living person is someone who can be identified directly or indirectly from an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that person.
Although the GDPR and the UK Data Protection Act 2018 apply only to living people, the scope of this policy also includes information about deceased individuals. This is because disclosure of information about the deceased may still be in breach of confidence or otherwise cause damage and distress to living relatives and loved ones.
Special categories of personal data
Special categories of Personal Data (formerly known as sensitive personal data) (as defined in Articles 9 and 10 of the GDPR) are personal data relating to an identifiable person’s
- racial or ethnic origin;
- political opinions;
- religious or philosophical beliefs;
- membership of a trade union;
- physical or mental health or condition;
- sexual life or sexual orientation;
- proven or alleged offences, including any legal proceedings and their outcome
- genetic or biometric data when processed to identify that individual
In addition, the University definition of High Risk Confidential Information includes the following personal data:
Any other information that would cause significant damage or distress to an individual it was disclosed without their consent, such as bank account and financial information, marks or grade
Data protection law
Relevant privacy legislation includes but is not confined to European Union General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR), UK Data Protection Act, 2018, UK Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, and equivalent legislation, such as the Malaysia Personal Data Protection Act, 2010, in other jurisdictions in which the University operates.
An organisation which determines the purposes for which personal data is processed and is legally accountable for the personal data that it collects and uses or contracts with others to process on its behalf.
In relation to personal data, any person (other than an employee of the data controller) who processes the data on behalf of the data controller.
A living person whose personal data is held by the University or any other organisation.
A living person/an individual - not a 'legal person' i.e. a company or oter legal entity.
Processing (also referred to as data processing)
Any operation performed on personal data, such as collecting, creating, recording, structuring, organising, storing, retrieving, accessing, using, seeing, sharing, communicating, disclosing, altering, adapting, updating, combining, erasing, destroying or deleting personal data, or restricting access or changes to personal data or preventing destruction of the data.
The definition of confidential information can be summarised as:
- Any personal information that would cause damage or distress to individuals if disclosed without their consent
- Any other Information that would prejudice the University's or another party’s interests if it were disclosed without authorisation
More details can be found in our information security classification scheme.
Information Security Management System (ISMS)
'That part of the overall management system based on a business risk approach to establish, implement operate, monitor, review, maintain and improve information security. The management system includes organisational structure, policies, planning activities, responsibilities, practices, procedures, processes and resources.' - BS ISO/IEC 27001: Information Security
Irreversible removal of personal identifiers from information so that the data subject is no longer identifiable. Anonymised information therefore no longer falls within the definition of personal data.
The processing of personal data in such a manner that the personal data can no longer be attributed to a specific data subject without the use of additional information, provided that such additional information is kept separately and is subject to technical and organisational measures to ensure that the personal data are not attributed to an identified or identifiable person. Pseudonymised data is therefore re-identifiable and falls within the definition of personal data.
Any form of automated processing of personal data consisting of the use of personal data to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to a person, in particular to analyse or predict aspects concerning their performance at work or studies, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability, behaviour, location or movements.
Restriction of processing
The marking of stored personal data with the aim of limiting their processing in the future.
Records of Processing Activities
Detailed records of the personal data processing activities that a Data Controller or Processor is required to maintain and make available under the GDPR.
An independent public authority established by the UK or another state to regulate compliance with data protection law by Data Controllers and Processors and take enforcement action in the case of non-compliance. In the UK the supervisory authority is the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).