FEATURE27 April 2022

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Features Impact Legal Privacy Trends

Sexual orientation is separate and distinct from gender and gender identity. Gender identity is the way that an individual describes themselves and identifies with a gender category. Stonewall’s Glossary of Terms defines sexual orientation as: “A person’s sexual attraction to other people, or lack thereof.” Along with romantic orientation, this forms a person’s orientation identity. Stonewall uses the term ‘orientation’ as an umbrella term covering sexual and romantic orientations.

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The Market Research Society (MRS)’s best practice recommendation is that, for research and data collection to be inclusive of the population, all relevant personal characteristics should be included. This ensures all participants are equally valued, and their opinions and attitudes are being gathered and represented.

The Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK GDPR requires a legal basis for processing of personal data. Some personal data is categorised as ‘special category data’ and is subject to additional requirements when being collected. Data on sexual orientation is categorised as special category data. Special category data needs to be treated with greater care, as collecting and using it is more likely to interfere with an individual’s fundamental rights or result in discrimination. This is part of the risk-based approach of the UK GDPR.

Researchers processing sexual orientation data as well as personal data will need to have a legal basis for the data being processed. When processing special category data, practitioners must have a lawful ...