What is personal data?

Personal data can be both directly and indirectly identifying. Processing refers to everything you do with information that can contribute to identify individuals. Read about what is considered personal data, and how can you decide whether you process them in your research project.

Personal data

Personal data is any information that can be linked to a person, either directly or indirectly, by putting different pieces of information together.

Personal data can, for example, consist of a national identity number, name or e-mail address/IP address. A voice on an audio recording is also considered personal data.

Indirect identifying information

It is also possible that a combined combination of information can be linked to a person.

For example, if the exact age, place of residence and field of study are recorded, and there is only one person aged 57 from Geilo who is studying dramaturgy.

Whether background information can make a person identifiable depends on the variables / the recorded data, but also on the context, theme and criteria for the sample.

Note that if there is a scrambling key that links the information to a name, the information is to be considered personal data, even if the research group does not have access to this scrambling key.

Special categories (sensitive information)

Special categories of personal data include information about:

  • Health information and other information that says something about the state of a person's health.
  • Racial or ethnic origin,
  • Political opinions, religion or philosophical beliefs or trade union membership,
  • Genetic information and biometric information for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person
  • Information about a natural person's sex life or sexual orientation.

Special categories, and personal data concerning criminal convictions and offences, etc. mainly overlaps with what was previously known as sensitive personal data.

Examples of health information

Health information is all information that can say something about the state of a person's health. It includes both physical and mental health, and can apply to current, past or future health conditions. Psychosocial conditions also fall within this category.

That fact that a person is a patient, receives health care or has a diagnosis/health condition is health information.

A person's right to and use of health services or social assistance is also included in the definition of health information.

Other cases where it is important to consider whether you process health information are (for example)

  • in projects where students talk about their experiences of bullying,
  • children in the child welfare system who are interviewed about their experiences with the child welfare service, or
  • where former patients are interviewed about how they were followed up by the health service. 

What is processing?

Processing is any process that is performed on personal data. Processing can consist of anything from:

  • collecting and registering
  • processing and analysing
  • transferring and storing
  • publishing and archiving

In essence, processing refers to everything you do with the data.

The project must be notified to Sikt if you possess personal data at any point, even if you are going to anonymise all persons in the publication or thesis.

Contact Sikt's Data Protection Services

Message: Log in to minforskning.sikt.no and contact your adviser by sending a message.

Chat: Open weekdays from 12 to 14. Closed on Wednesdays.

Phone: +47 73 98 40 40 weekdays from 10-12. Closed on Wednesdays.