Cochrane data protection policy

An official Cochrane policy. Last updated April 2016.

Please note: This is an internal document for use by Cochrane Groups; our organizational data policy is available here.

Our data policy

While this policy adheres to existing UK legislation (as this is where our servers with the data are stored and therefore, what we must comply with) we will also have to comply with new EU legislation due out later this year. Our approach will be to meet the existing UK legislation and then work towards compliance of the new EU directive by the 2018 deadline.

About this policy

This Data Protection Policy (the Policy) sets out the principles which we will apply to our processing of personal data so that we not only safeguard one or our most valuable assets, but also respect the data protection rights of individuals and process their personal data in accordance with the law.

It is the responsibility of all of our staff, including all members of the Central Executive staff including permanent, fixed term, and temporary staff, Board Members, those on secondments, any third party representatives, agency workers, volunteers, interns, agents and sponsors and those in a position of responsibility with Cochrane Groups (Staff) to assist us to comply with this Policy. In order to help staff to comply with this Policy, we have produced a Data Protection Guidance document (the Guidance) that explains in more detail the requirements of the Act. 

This Policy does not form part of any employee's contract of employment and may be amended at any time.  It is expected that all staff will familiarize themselves with both this policy and the guidance and apply their provisions in relation to all processing of personal data. Failure to do so could amount of misconduct, which is a disciplinary matter and could ultimately lead to dismissal. Serious breaches could also result in personal criminal liability under the Act.

This high level Policy sets out the principles of data protection and will provide guidance. 

While the Policy is aimed at adherence to the Act (as this is where our servers where the data is stored are held, concerning data subjects, and therefore, what we must comply with) changes to the Policy also have to comply with new EU legislation due out this spring, the General Data Protection Regulation (the EU Regulation). 

Subsequent revisions to the Policy will aim to address the requirements of the EU Regulation, expected to come into effect in 2018. 

1.0 Policy

1.1.1 The policy applies to the following (collective the Groups) . Cochrane Review Groups (CRGs) -

1.1.2 Cochrane Centres -

1.1.3 Cochrane Fields and Networks -;  and  

1.1.4 Cochrane Methods Groups -

1.1.5 Cochrane Central Executive

1.2 The Chief Information Officer is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act and with the Policy. Any questions about the operation of the Policy or any concerns that the Policy has not been followed should be referred in the first instance to the Chief Information Officer.

2.0  Definition of data protection terms

2.1 Data is information, which is stored electronically, on a computer, or in certain paper-based filing systems.

2.2 Data subjects for the purpose of the Policy include all living individuals about whom we hold personal data. A data subject need not be a UK national or resident. All data subjects have legal rights in relation to their personal information.

2.3 Personal data means data relating to a living individual who can be identified from that data (or from that data and other information in our possession). Personal data can be factual (for example, a name, address or date of birth) or it can be an opinion about that person, their actions and behaviour.

2.4 Data controllers are the people who, or organizations which, determine the purposes for which, and the manner in which, any personal data is processed. They are responsible for establishing practices and policies in line with the Act. We are the data controller of all personal data used in our business for our own purposes.

2.5 Data users are those of our Staff whose work involves processing personal data. Data users must protect the data they handle in accordance with this data protection policy and any applicable data security procedures at all times.

2.6 Data processors include any person or organization that is not a data user that processes personal data on our behalf and on our instructions. Employees of data controllers are excluded from this definition but it could include suppliers that handle personal data on our behalf.

2.7 Processing is any activity that involves use of the data. It includes obtaining, recording or holding the data, or carrying out any operation or set of operations on the data including organizing, amending, retrieving, using, disclosing, erasing or destroying it. Processing also includes transferring personal data to third parties.

2.8 Sensitive personal data includes information about a person's racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or similar beliefs, trade union membership, physical or mental health or condition or sexual life, or about the commission of, or proceedings for, any offence committed or alleged to have been committed by that person, the disposal of such proceedings or the sentence of any court in such proceedings. Sensitive personal data can only be processed under strict conditions, including a condition requiring the express permission of the person concerned.

2.9 Relevant filing system is a set of manual information (i.e., paper files) relating to individuals which is structured by reference to individuals or criteria relating to them in such a way that specific information relating to a particular individual is readily accessible.

2.10 Information Commissioner is the supervisory authority responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Act in England and Wales

Data Protection Policy: Guidance Note

This Guidance Note (the Guidance) forms part of the Policy and provides supplementary information to enable Staff to better understand and comply with the Policy.

Cochrane is required to comply with the Act in respect of its processing of personal data, such as information about our members, staff, volunteers, supporters, complainants, enquirers, advisers, representatives of other organizations and individuals captured by CCTV images.

It is important for Staff to familiarize themselves with both the Policy and this Guidance so that any processing of personal data can be carried out in accordance with the Act.  Failure to do so may expose us to enforcement action by the Information Commissioner and/or to complaints and/or claims for compensation from affected individuals and:

  • irreparable damage to Cochrane’s reputation;
  • criminal and/or civil action; 
  • fines and/or damages (up to £500,000 for serious breaches of the Act); 
  •  restrictions being imposed on our use of personal data; and
  • loss of confidence in the integrity of Cochrane’s systems and procedures.

You are required to assist us to comply with our obligations under the Act. In order to do this you must comply with the Policy and this Guidance whenever you process personal data, as well as any other data protection related policy that may be applicable to your area of work. Failure to comply with this policy may be a disciplinary offense, which could result in dismissal, negligent or deliberate breaches could result in criminal liability for you personally under the Act. 

Any questions about the Policy or this Guidance should be raised with the Chief Information Officer.  ‘You’ refers to a member of Staff.

The Act sets out eight data protection principles which must be followed in relation to all processing of personal data. These principles are set out in the act are reproduced below, together with an explanation of what they require. 

We process personal data for a number of purposes, such as to:

  • enable us to provide a voluntary service for the benefit of the national public;
  • as specified in our constitution administer membership records; 
  • to fundraise and promote the interests of the charity; 
  • manage our employees and volunteers; 
  • maintain our own accounts and records; and
  • the use of CCTV systems for the prevention of crime. 

1.  General Principles

a. Anyone processing personal data must comply with the eight enforceable principles of good practice. These provide that personal data must be: 

1.1.1. Processed fairly and lawfully.

1.1.2. Processed for specific purposes in an appropriate way. 

1.1.3. Adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose. 

1.1.4. Accurate and kept up to date. 

1.1.5. Not be kept for longer than necessary. 

1.1.6. Processed in accordance with the rights of the data subject. 

1.1.7. Must be kept secure using technological and organizational measures. 

1.1.8. Not be transferred outside the European Economic Area unless that country ensures adequate levels of protection for the rights of the data subject. 

2.  Fair And Lawful Processing

2.1. The Act is not intended to prevent the processing of personal data, but to ensure that it is done fairly and without adversely affecting the rights of the data subject.

2.2. For personal data to be processed lawfully, they must be processed on the basis of one of the legal grounds set out in the Act. These include, among other things, the data subject's consent to the processing, or that the processing is necessary for the performance of a contract with the data subject, for the compliance with a legal obligation to which the data controller is subject, or for the legitimate interest of the data controller or the party to whom the data is disclosed. When sensitive personal data is being processed, additional conditions must be met. When processing personal data as data controllers in the course of our business, we will ensure that those requirements are met.

3.  Processing For Limited Purposes

3.1. In the course of our business, we may collect and process the personal data. This may include data we receive directly from a data subject (for example, by completing forms or by corresponding with us by mail, phone, email or otherwise) and data we receive from other sources (including, for example, business partners, sub-contractors in technical, payment and delivery services, credit reference agencies and others).

3.2. We will only process personal data for the specific purposes specifically permitted by the Act. We will notify those purposes to the data subject when we first collect the data or as soon as possible thereafter. 

3.3. Notifying Data Subjects:

If we collect personal data directly from data subjects, we will inform them about:

3.3.1. The purpose or purposes for which we intend to process that personal data. 

3.3.2. The types of third parties, if any, with which we will share or to which we will disclose that personal data.

3.3.3. The means, if any, with which data subjects can limit our use and disclosure of their personal data.

3.4. If we receive personal data about a data subject from other sources, we will provide the data subject with this information as soon as possible thereafter.

3.5. We will also inform data subjects whose personal data we process that we are the data controller with regard to that data and who the Data Protection Compliance Manager is.

4.  Adequate, Relevant And Non-Excessive Processing

4.1. We will only collect personal data to the extent that it is required for the specific purpose notified to the data subject.

5.  Accurate Data

5.1. We will ensure that personal data we hold is accurate and kept up to date. We will check the accuracy of any personal data at the point of collection and at regular intervals afterwards. We will take all reasonable steps to destroy or amend inaccurate or out-of-date data.

6.  Timely Processing and Retention 

6.1. We will not keep personal data longer than is necessary for the purpose or purposes for which they were collected. We will take all reasonable steps to destroy, or erase from our systems, all data that is no longer required.

7.  Processing In Line With Data Subject's Rights

7.1. We will process all personal data in line with data subjects' rights, in particular their right to:

7.1.1. Request access to any data held about them by a data controller.

7.1.2. Prevent the processing of their data for direct-marketing purposes.

7.1.3. Ask to have inaccurate data amended.

7.1.4. Prevent processing that is likely to cause damage or distress to themselves or anyone else.

8.  Data Security

8.1. We will take appropriate security measures against unlawful or unauthorized processing of personal data, and against the accidental loss of, or damage to, personal data.

8.2. We will put in place procedures and technologies to maintain the security of all personal data from the point of collection to the point of destruction. Personal data will only be transferred to a data processor if he agrees to comply with those procedures and policies, or if he puts in place adequate measures himself.

8.3. We will maintain data security by protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the personal data, defined as follows:

8.3.1. Confidentiality means that only people who are authorized to use the data can access it.

8.3.2. Integrity means that personal data should be accurate and suitable for the purpose for which it is processed. 

8.3.3. Availability means that authorized users should be able to access the data if they need it for authorized purposes. Personal data should therefore be stored on our central computer system instead of individual PCs.

8.4. Security procedures include:

8.4.1. Entry controls. Any stranger seen in entry-controlled areas should be reported.

8.4.2. Secure lockable desks and cupboards. Desks and cupboards should be kept locked if they hold confidential information of any kind. (Personal information is always considered confidential.) 

8.4.3. Methods of disposal. Paper documents should be shredded. Digital storage devices should be physically destroyed when they are no longer required. 

8.4.4. Equipment. Data users must ensure that individual monitors do not show confidential information to passers-by and that they log off from their PC when it is left unattended.

9.  Transferring Personal Data To A Country Outside The EEA

9.1. We may transfer any personal data we hold to a country outside the European Economic Area ("EEA"), provided that one of the following conditions applies:

9.1.1. The country to which the personal data are transferred ensures an adequate level of protection for the data subjects' rights and freedoms. 

9.1.2. The data subject has given his consent.

9.1.3. The transfer is necessary for one of the reasons set out in the Act, including the performance of a contract between us and the data subject, or to protect the vital interests of the data subject.

9.1.4. The transfer is legally required on important public interest grounds or for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.

9.1.5. The transfer is authorized by the relevant data protection authority where we have adduced adequate safeguards with respect to the protection of the data subjects' privacy, their fundamental rights and freedoms, and the exercise of their rights.

9.1.6. Subject to the requirements in clause 8.4.1 above, personal data we hold may also be processed by staff operating outside the EEA who work for us or for one of our suppliers. That staff maybe engaged in, among other things, the fulfilment of contracts with the data subject, the processing of payment details and the provision of support services. 

10. Disclosure And Sharing Of Personal Information

10.1. We may share personal data we hold with any member of our Groups.

10.2. We may also disclose personal data we hold to third parties:

10.2.1. In the event that we sell or buy any business or assets, in which case we may disclose personal data we hold to the prospective seller or buyer of such business or assets.

10.2.2. If we or substantially all of our assets are acquired by a third party, in which case personal data we hold will be one of the transferred assets.

10.2.3. If we are under a duty to disclose or share a data subject's personal data in order to comply with any legal obligation, or in order to enforce or apply any contract with the data subject or other agreements; or to protect our rights, property, or safety of our employees, customers, or others. This includes exchanging information with other companies and organizations for the purposes of fraud protection and credit risk reduction.

10.3. Where applicable we will inform individuals of the identity of third parties to whom we may share, disclose or be required to pass on information to, whilst accounting for any exemptions that may apply under the Act.

11.  Other Miscellaneous Obligations 

11.1. We will follow codes of practice issued by the ICO when developing policies and procedure in relation to data protection. 

11.2. We will ensure that ‘Data Processing Agreements’ are applied to contracts and management agreements where we are contracting out services and processing outsourcing personal data processing to third parties (i.e. data processors 

11.3. We will adhere to and follow the principles of data protection when conducting surveys, marketing activities etc., where we collect, process, store and record all types of personal data. 

11.4. We will ensure staff are appropriately provided with data protection training and promote the awareness of this Policy and other related data protection and information security policies, procedures and processes. 

11.5. Staff will not attempt to gain access to information that is not necessary to hold, know or process and the ability to log-in. All information that is held will be relevant and accurate for the purpose for which it is required. The information will not be kept for longer than is necessary and will be kept secure at all times.

11.6.  We will ensure that all personal or sensitive personal information is anonymized as part of any evaluation of assets and liability assessments except as required by law.

11.7. Staff who manage and process personal or sensitive personal information will ensure that it is kept secure and where necessary confidential. Sensitive personal information will only be processed fairly and lawfully and in line with the provisions set out in the Act and only processed in accordance with instructions set out by us. 

11.8. We will ensure that all staff are made aware of the reasons why personal and sensitive personal data is being processed: 

11.8.1. how it will be processed;

11.8.2. who will process it; 

11.8.3. how it will be stored; and 

11.8.4. how it will be disposed of when no longer required.

12. Complaints

12.1. Complaints relating to breaches of Act and/or complaints that relating to a data subject’s processing not being in line with the principles of data protection will be managed and processed by the Chief Information Officer. 

12.2. All complaints of dissatisfaction should be sent to the Chief Information Officer.

Appendix A - Archie and My Account Terms of Use

Archie and My Account Terms of Use is available under the Archie section.

Appendix B - Cochrane data policy

The Cochrane data policy is available on the Cochrane organizational website.