Everyone likes a good gossip, but the differences between having a quick chat in the bar and putting information about someone else online are immense. We need to be careful about what we share about others online and any personal data that we may collect; there are laws to protect privacy and the sharing of personal information.
It can be easy to forget that just because you have decided that you are happy sharing information about yourself online, it doesn’t mean that everyone – friends and family – share your keenness for being published on the internet. I’m sure we can all identify an instance where an unfavourable picture has appeared online; or maybe someone has made a comment or shared something about you personally which you would have preferred to have kept private.
We need to be careful not only with what we share about ourselves, but also, and in some cases more importantly, with what we share about others. It is important to remember that, depending upon our jurisdiction, we may be subject to a number of laws which exist to protect ours and others’ privacy.
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In the UK, the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into British law, protects the “right to respect for private and family life”. Since its introduction we have seen court rulings that have granted privacy injunctions. Such injunctions don't just cover publication in the national press but also social media platforms. They apply to the normal person, as well as journalists, preventing anyone from legally sharing the information subject to the injunction. Breaking an injunction on social media has in some cases resulted in criminal charges, and this BBC News article includes some high-profile examples.
Just as we need to be mindful of what we post about other people on the internet, we also need to be careful about any personal information we are gathering and storing about people in our research. If you are developing a site or issuing an online survey you need to be aware of data protection laws.
For example, did you know that according to data protection laws in the UK, all personal data that you collect must be:
Should you be collecting and storing other people’s personal data it is imperative that you are doing this for a specific reason and that the data is secure.
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