DPA issues with second hand pcs

  snoresloudly 21:12 07 Jul 03

I am posing this question here rather than help room due to the possible legal issues involved. The company that I work for is in the process of being merged with an other, they (the merging company) have decided that our network of pcs is to old and obsolete to use therefore have "donated" 12 pcs from their company for us to setup and use as a new network. The boss has decided that he will sell/give to existing staff the old pcs as they are not worth selling. The problem that I can see, and have been trying to put to my boss is that all the pcs will have to be formated and sold/given away with "clean" harddrives as company data left on them will breach the DPA also that to pass on these pcs with the operating system (win 98) already installed will breach copyright. The other issue is that the pcs we will be using from the other company also come with data/operating systems already installed (win2000) and I am saying that these systems should be wiped clean and re-installed with OUR licensed copies of the operating systems. Bearing in mind that the 2 companies currently operate in two different areas of business and thus lots of personal data relating to two business's (that are not related) are held what are the legal ramifications ????? So who is right???

  wee eddie 22:11 07 Jul 03

I find it difficult to believe that the company would allow PCs to leave its offices with HDDs in a "current use condition". Many companies trash the HDDs rather than risk an inefficient or partial format.

Data Protection Act has no relevant interest in PC's with wiped HDDs.

Microsoft may have an interest in the use of its W'98 License, which is I believe called EULA, but as your company will have a multiple user license, I think it unlikely that they will pursue you.

Whether the data held held by yourselves is legally available to a purchasing company will depend on how you collected that data and for what use the purchasing company plans to use it.

There are a number of companies whose database is worth more than their product. Corporate Lawyers have made a fortune or two, whilst defining the availability of one companies data to another company.

  bfoc 23:07 07 Jul 03

1. If a PC was passed on, outside the company, which contained personal information about identifiable individuals it would be a breach of the DPA. If use is made of such material even within the new company, that falls outside of the 'agreed use' when the data was collected, then it is likely there could be breach of the DPA.

2. It might be quite in order to pass along a PC with an operating system, as long as that particular copy of the OS was not being used elsewhere BUT this would only be valid if the OS was 'tied' to the machine rather than being a copy licensed to a company under a multi-user agreement. In that case I don't see how the OS can be 'transferred' on. There is of course a grey area here if the company might ask those receiving the machines to, even occasionally, work from home.

3. If the company you receive the machines from has either a multi-user licence large enough to cover your 'new' machines or if the OS was bought specifically for the new machines I can't see how there would be a problem. Of course if their licence is for, say, 40 machines and it will now be used on 60 machines the story is different. Presumably the IT officer of the new company will know what the situation is, or at least they should.

4. If you are really concerned you could raise the questions in writing with your Boss and keep a copy. What they then do is up to them, but at least your back is covered!

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