Collecting, using and sharing data in research with people requires taking into consideration the legal landscape and expected ethical standards for research.
Statistics and Registration Services Act
The Statistics and Registration Services Act 2007 is mainly concerned with the structure and function of the UK Statistics Authority and applies only to data designated as Official Statistics.
The Act defines the legal gateways under which 'personal information' can be disclosed. According to the Act, information identifies a particular person: if the identity of that person is specified in the information, can be deduced from the information, or can be deduced from the information taken together with any other published information.
The Act only allows disclosure of personal information to an 'Approved Researcher' i.e. an individual to whom the Statistics Authority has granted access, for the purposes of statistical research. The criteria for access require the Statistics Authority to consider whether the individual is a 'fit and proper' person, and the purpose for which access is requested. The Act also states that disclosure of 'personal information' outside of the legal gateways is a criminal offence.
Although the Act does not apply to individual researchers managing confidential research data not designated as Official Statistics, such researchers should adapt the Approved Researcher model for access to confidential data.