What is data?


The information business is a complex one.

The chances are that virtually all the business intelligence you have now is stored and processed on a computer.

And that carries responsibilities and creates obligations.

So, what is data?

The long version is here but in short:

Data is information that is processed by a machine, recorded on something (including paper), filed somewhere or can be accessed later including information held by public bodies.

Basically… everything.

Data turns personal when you can identify a person from it. Even if you need it and something else to identify someone it’s still personal. If it contains an opinion about the person, it’s also personal.

An example of this from the ICO is that water meter data, even if addressed to the occupier, is personal because it could be used to tell the habits of that person and identify the address they live in and so is personal.

Personal data turns sensitive when it has something that the person would consider private, or that could be used to discriminate against them in some way.

It’s very broad, so that even something publically visible, but covers them. Even if the person makes the information about them public, it’s still personal and sensitive.

What this means is that almost anything you do in modern business that requires using a computer and working with other people is going to involve thinking about data.

When the UK leaves the EU, the rules are likely to stay the same.

Being clear about this definition will help you get started on what you do with the data – how you keep and use it.

Note: You may be one of those people that worries about the use of ‘data is’ versus ‘data are’. ‘Data is’ sounds better…

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