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Duty of confidentiality

Some common law torts offer protection to individuals’ private interests and their confidential information. The common law tort of breach of confidence is the most relevant to the use and disclosure of personal information. It deals with the unauthorised use or disclosure of certain types of confidential information, and it may protect such information on the basis of actual or deemed agreement to keep such information private. A breach of confidence will only occur where the disclosure of information is considered to be an abuse, or unconscionable to a reasonable person.

Researchers should also be aware that in certain circumstances the law relating to contracts may apply, so for example where an explicit statement has been made by a data holding organisation in relation to the confidentiality of an individual’s personal information, that may constitute a written or verbal contract.

It is therefore imperative to adhere to the security arrangements and disclosure control that was agreed with the data holding organisation prior to release of their data at all times.

Page last updated: 30/06/2017