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The Proposed Data Protection Regulation and Its Potential Impact on Social Sciences Research in the UK


Leslie Stevens


This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Licence Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

This article critically assesses the potential impact of the proposed Data Protection Regulation on the undertaking of social sciences research in the UK, providing practical analysis from the perspective of research involving administrative data. This assessment reveals how changes to the key concepts of anonymisation, personal data and lawfulness may impact upon social sciences research. The approach taken to the regulation of personal versus anonymised data in the proposed Regulation represents a disproportionate and de-contextualised response to the risks involved in undertaking social sciences research that may create disincentives for investing in privacy protective mechanisms. It is positive that there is explicit recognition of research as a legitimate form of data processing. However, negative implications will arise from the introduction of pseudonymous data as a subset of personal data, without proportionate consideration of varying processing contexts and factors surrounding de-identification and specifically, the strict security measures taken to prohibit de-identification in the research context.

Research Fellow, Administrative Research Centre Scotland and PhD Candidate Mason Institute, University of Edinburgh School of Law. The author would like to thank Professor Graeme Laurie for his contributions to and help in revising initial drafts of this article, as well as to Judith Rauhofer and to peer reviewers for their helpful comments. This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council grant number ES/L007487/1 (Administrative Data Research Centre - Scotland). All websites were accessed on 30 July 2015.


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