Privacy and research

The Belgian Privacy Act of 1994 imposes restrictions and obligations in order to ensure that the processing of personal data occurs in a deontologically responsible way. For many years already the academic research community has faithfully put these rules into practice.

The new European privacy legislation that has been in force since 25 May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (General Data Protection Regulation), does not change the principles substantially, even though a number of other emphases are now being made. For example, the former mandatory declaration to the Privacy Commission was replaced by an internal documentation/registration requirement.

In the past, three general brochures were developed by the Privacy Commission concerning the application of the Privacy Act in the research context. The first brochure deals mainly with statistical and sociological research (Vademecum for the researcher), while the other two focus on historical research and biomedical research. These publications are still useful, but we are currently working on an update of the documentation in the light of the GDPR.

The "Generic Code of Conduct for Processing Personal Data and Confidential Information" that is in force at Ghent University already reflects the general principles that must also be applied to academic research.

Together with the partner institutions of the VLIR, Ghent University is currently working on a clear code of conduct specifically for academic research (publication expected in the second half of 2018). More practical guidelines will also be available soon, e.g. for the register of processing activities (within Research Data Management) and for detailed privacy-related risk-analyses by means of a so-called data protection effect assessment.

Finally, pending the establishment of a clear and more extensive structure for support, all questions about the application of the privacy legislation can be directed to the deanship of your faculty. The dean will bundle the questions, and answers to frequently asked questions in the context of academic research will be made available online here in the coming months.