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Data protection is the process of protecting data and involves the relationship between the collection and dissemination of data and technology, the public perception and expectation of privacy and the political and legal underpinnings surrounding that data. It aims to strike a balance between individual privacy rights while still allowing data to be used for business purposes.
Data protection is also known as data privacy or information privacy.
Data protection should always be applied to all forms of data, whether it be personal or corporate. It deals with both the integrity of the data, protection from corruption or errors, and privacy of data, it being accessible to only those that have access privilege to it.
The context of data protection varies and the methods and extent also vary for each; there is data protection on the personal level, that of business or public entities, and that of data so highly classified that it should never fall into the hands of others aside from its owners — or in other words, top secret.
In the United States data privacy is not highly regulated, so by extension there are no strict data protection laws that apply, although that is quickly changing as people become aware of the value of privacy and data protection. In the United Kingdom however, the legislative body passed the Data Protection Act of 1998, a revision of the very basic Act of 1984 which stated rules for data users and defined individuals' rights in regard to data that is directly related to them. The Act became effective on March 1, 2000. The law itself strives to balance the individual rights to privacy and the ability of more public organizations to use this data in the process of conducting business. The Act gives guidelines, eight principles, which a data controller must observe when handling personal data in the course of doing business, in the name of protection. These principles go along the lines of having being obtained fairly and lawfully, to it not leaving the country or territory unless under certain conditions of protection. Not all countries have data protection laws, however.