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Legally Bound? Data Protection Legislation and Research Practice
Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda, Laurence Horton
GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences
This paper explores how data archives provide a service facilitating the gap between legal data protection requirements and research practices. Researchers encounter legal frameworks concerning data protection in all phases of the data-lifecycle, but research practice - without due care - can clash with these frameworks. Social science archives can intervene, helping researchers navigate an environment which simultaneously pushes data sharing, and consideration of the individual's right to privacy. These aims are not mutually exclusive, but pressure on researchers to 'get it right' when collecting, storing, analyzing, and anonymizing data has never been greater. We examine how archives can intervene in stages of the data-lifecycle, against the context of German and British regulatory requirements. We propose that whilst differences exist in the substance of laws (e.g. Bundesdatenschutzgesetz and Data Protection Act), research cultures, and funding environments, archives face similar challenges in the data reuse/privacy dynamic. With research innovations such as geo-referenced data, and increasingly, cross-national collaborative projects existing either across national laws or outside established legal frameworks - the regulatory grounding is not firm. Here facilitation becomes an act of setting best-practice standards as guidance and, we suggest, data archives are best suited to be guides.