Skip navigation

GDPR - Glossary of Terms

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) includes a number of revised data protection definitions and introduces new concepts and terminology. Below are some key terms:

Accountability: the ability to demonstrate compliance with all the principles and rights laid out under the GDPR. To be able to demonstrate accountability, we need to have a clear picture of: 

  • What data is held
  • Where it is stored
  • What it's used for
  • Who we share it with
  • How long we keep it 
  • What policies and processes we have to manage it

Binding Corporate Rules: a set of binding rules put in place to allow multinational companies and organisations to transfer personal data that they control from the EU to their affiliates outside the EU (but within the organisation).

Biometric Data: personal data resulting from specific technical processing relating to the physical, physiological or behavioural characteristics of a natural person, which allow or confirm the unique identification of that natural person, such as facial images.

Conditions for Processing: The University are only permitted to process personal data where we have identified a legal right to do so, this may include:

  • The Data Subject provides their consent – meaning that they have provided an unambiguous indication to signify that they agree with the processing of their Personal Data.
  • The processing is necessary for the performance of a contract with the data subject or to take steps to enter into a contract
  • Where we are complying with an existing legal obligation.
  • In order to protect the vital interests of a person - usually this is in situations where we can't obtain their consent.
  • Where it is necessary for a task in the public interest or in the exercise of public authority.
  • Where we have a legitimate interest to process the data and where doing so would not override the rights or interests of the data subject.

Consent: any freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject's wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her.

Data Controller:  the organisation that will determine the purposes for which data is collected and the manner in which it is processed. The University is the data controller for date we choose to process, but we may also act as, or engage a Data Processor see below.

Data Privacy Impact Assessment: a process designed to help organisations identify and mitigate privacy risks associated with proposed data processing activities. For further information, see the University's Privacy Impact Assessment guidance.  

Data Processor: a natural or legal person, public authority, agency or other body which processes personal data on behalf of the controller. 

Data Processing: is any operation or set of operations performed upon personal data, be it by electronic systems or not. e.g.: collection, storing, altering, retrieving, using, disclosing by transmission, restricting, erasure or destruction.

Data Protection by Design and Default: requires us to think about data protection and privacy from the very offset of anything we plan to do with people's data, for example when procuring or designing new tools for managing data, and embarking on new uses for data. This is particularly the case when any new initiative, project, or data hosting tool could pose a high risk to privacy or data security. The Data Protection Officer must be involved in cases where this applies.

Data Protection Officer: a representative for a University who oversees GDPR compliance, handles Subject Access Requests and complaints, communicates with the Information Commissioners office and as the data-privacy expert for the University, provides advice on all aspects of GDPR.

Data Subject: is a natural person (staff, student or third-party) whose data is being processed.

Genetic data: personal data relating to the inherited or acquired genetic characteristics of a natural person which give unique information about the physiology or the health of that natural person and which result, in particular, from an analysis of a biological sample from the natural person in question.

Identifiable Natural Person: is one who can be identified directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person. 

Integrity and Confidentiality: the use of appropriate technical and organisational security measures to protect personal data. IF we can achieve this, we can hopefully avoid a visit from the

Personal Data: is any information relating to data subject that can identify them either directly or indirectly.

Personal Data Breach: is the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, or disclosure of personal data. In the event of a breach of data that could have serious consequences for those whose data has been compromised, it must be reported to the ICO within 72 hours. A breach may result in severe brand damage through loss of trust, or even a fine of up to €20 million or 4% of global turnover - whichever is greater. Failure to evidence appropriate controls could lead to a fine of up to €10 million or 4% of global turnover.

Principles: the fundamental principles imbedded within the GDPR which set out the main responsibilities for organisations. These are:

Processing: any operation or set of operations which is performed on personal data or on sets of personal data, whether or not by automated means, such as collection, recording, organisation, structuring, storage, adaptation or alteration, retrieval, consultation, use, disclosure by transmission, dissemination or otherwise making available, alignment or combination, restriction, erasure or destruction. 

Profiling: any form of automated processing of personal data consisting of the use of personal data to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to a natural person, in particular to analyse or predict aspects concerning that natural person's performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability, behaviour, location or movements. 

Pseudonymisation: the processing of personal data in such a manner that the personal data can no longer be attributed to a specific data subject without the use of additional information, as long as such additional information is kept separately and technical and organisational measures to ensure that the personal data are not attributed to an identified or identifiable natural person. 

Restriction on processing: the marking of stored personal data with the aim of limiting their processing in the future.
Right of access: entitles the data subjects to have access to have access to and information about the personal data being processed by the data controller.

Special Categories of Data: data concerning the racial or ethnic origin, political opinion, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade-union membership, genetic data, biometric data, or data concerning health or sex life or sexual orientation of an individual.

Subject Access Requests: requests from Data Subjects to receive a copy of data held about them. 

Supervisory Authority:
 the independent public authority who will be enforcing GDPR. In the UK this is the Information Commissioner's Office.


a sign in front of a crowd

Northumbria Open Days

Open Days are a great way for you to get a feel of the University, the city of Newcastle upon Tyne and the course(s) you are interested in.

Research at Northumbria

Research at Northumbria

Research is the life blood of a University and at Northumbria University we pride ourselves on research that makes a difference; research that has application and affects people's lives.

NU World

Explore NU World

Find out what life here is all about. From studying to socialising, term time to downtime, we’ve got it covered.

Latest News and Features

Campus Sunset Generic
IVCO 2024
gettyimages/Robert Ingelhart
Seagrass habitats are expanding in some areas, to the surprise of researchers. Matthew Floyd, CC BY-ND
Student Isobel Randall-Evans pictured with handbells
Isabel Quinn and Kevin Murphy, Assistant Professors in Adult Nursing, Dr Claire Pryor, Assistant Professor in Adult Nursing and Pathway Lead for SPQ Adult Nursing and Leanne Hume, Northern Region Lead Nurse Independent Health and Social Care, RCN
Fashion Design and Marketing student Abbie Inwood
More events

Upcoming events

REVEAL: Fine Art
REVEAL: Computer and Information Science

Back to top