Essential Data Protection Guidance for College Students


Depending on the faculty you are currently enrolled in, there might be a need to conduct studies on actual human beings. Personal information might be shared when researching and conducting the study. Therefore, students need to be fully aware of data protection.

Contravening rules and regulations related to data protection can result in hefty fines for the college and student. Here is some clear and essential data protection guidance for college students to prevent legal risks when conducting research projects or studies.

Being transparent

Transparency takes precedence when collecting personal data from individuals. Therefore, you need to explain to them in detail why their data is being collected and how it will be managed and disclosed. Do not proceed to collect personal data when there is no explicit consent from the individuals involved.

Being transparent is the best policy because if an individual finds out that their data is not used the way they expected, there might be some serious legal repercussions. Although that is true, your transparency should start and end with the individuals used to collect personal data. Be utmost careful with third-parties requesting full disclosure.

Managing data

The management of personal data is also very important because the methods used in storing that information must be very secure. For example, if you are using a secure online portal, ensure that the security is up to scratch. That will help in avoiding cyberattacks on your website where the secure portal is accessible.

Also, comply with local data retention policies that dictate when that personal information should be destroyed. There are other measures you should take, like storing the data in only one source that is secure and restricted access.

Plan out the use of personal data required

Before collecting personal data, there are some questions you should consider ensuring full compliance with the data protection policy.

The first one would be the reason why you need personal data; afterward, students should consider how much information they need. That will help you collect just enough data that will help fulfill the purpose and objectives of the research or study being conducted.

Also, have a strict retention policy that has been communicated with the individuals the data was collected from. There are other important questions to ask yourself before starting a project what will require the use and disclosure of personal data but these are the most important.

And the most valuable tip for a student techie – when you are working on setting up all of this, you need to keep in mind the importance of your academics.

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Collection of data

Obtaining personal data should also be done in a legally appropriate manner which involves using methods that were consented by the involved individuals. For example, obtaining personal data online without the consent of the individual can result in legal problems.

If you are going to collect data, it is important to do so after consulting with your lecturer. The lecturer will know specific regulations that apply in that particular case and if they do not know, they will coordinate with the relevant department at the college. Collecting data can be a very sensitive procedure. Therefore, you need to ensure that your compliance checklist has all the boxes ticked.

When it comes to collecting and storing customer data, whether it’s personal details or credit card information, remember that it is what the cyber attackers are eyeing for. Historically, that’s what has been targeted most so make sure to comply on all ends.

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Audio and visual recordings 

In some instances, you might need to record a conversation with an individual that is part of the study. Before starting a conversation, state that you are recording and why the audio file is necessary. Also, explain how the data will be used and stored and get consent to proceed with the conversation.

In regards to filming an individual or taking photographs for your study, there are some legal prerequisites to follow. It might depend on local law but the general legal requirement is getting the individual involved to sign a release form. The form will permit you to use the data for the research purposes and ensures you are compliant with the data protection policy.

The bottom line

Following these tips will help you comply with data protection policy whenever conducting research or a study. Ensure that you have the explicit consent of the individuals involved in the project, especially if audio and visual recordings are required. Get them to sign a release form and be as open and transparent with them as you possibly can. When in doubt, consult with your lecturer because he might have more knowledge about situations like these.

Image Credits: Freepik & Computer photo

Mark Funk
Mark Funk is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.