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Phone: +44 (0)1273 337515


Privacy policy

Read about how Mass Observation processes data.

1. Who we are

Mass Observation (MO) specialises in material about everyday life in Britain. The Mass Observation Archive (MOA) contains papers generated by the original MO social research organisation (1937 to early 1950s), and newer material collected continuously since 1981 through the Mass Observation Project (MOP). MO is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (registered charity number: 1179673) in the care of the University of Sussex. It is housed at The Keep where it is available for research as part of the University of Sussex's Special Collections.

2. Scope of this policy

This Privacy Policy sets out the personal and special category data which MO collects, processes and manages in the course of its activities. You will find details of what information we will collect from you if you sign up to join the MOP, friends scheme or donate material to the MOA.

This policy does not include data collected by individuals consulting MO at The Keep or online through the digital resources published by Adam Matthew Digital. The University of Sussex is responsible for data collected for employment or educational (at Sussex) purposes. Please consult these organisations to view their Privacy Policies. 

3. Registration with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)

MO is exempt from registering formally with the Information Commissioner’s Office because it is a not-for-profit organisation. Nevertheless, the organisation aims to responsibly manage the data in its care:

  • The “data subjects” (i.e the members of the MOP writing Panel) are aware of the purpose of the collection
  • MO is in contact with the “data subjects” regularly and has obtained their consent to keep the information they send in
  • The information is made available for research purposes anonymously
  • The database of names and addresses is not sold on or made available to other parties
  • The resulting material is for a “special purpose” ie research under the Data Protection Act.

4. What information do we collect?

The Mass Observation Project (MOP)

If you sign up to join the MOP, or participate in an activity or project administered by MO, we may ask you to provide information on:

  • full name
  • contact address
  • email address
  • contact phone numbers
  • year of birth
  • occupation
  • gender identity
  • sexuality
  • ethnicity
  • religion
  • disability
  • relationship/living status
  • copyright of your work

These data categories can be described as both personal and sensitive/special data categories. You can read more about these data categories on the ICO’s website.  

You may choose not to disclose this information. This will not affect your right to participate in Mo projects.

The MOP is an anonymous project and only non-identifiable biographical information is made accessible (see section 4).

The Mass Observation Friends scheme

If you subscribe to our Friends scheme, we collect your full name, postal address, and email address.

Depositing material to the Mass Observation Archive

If you deposit material to the MOA we will collect your full name, postal address and email address. We will also ask you to provide some information about the collection’s origin, custodial history, copyright and any access restrictions.

Signing up to or attending one of our events

If you sign up to join one of our events (including workshops and webinars) we may collect your full name, email address, country, organisation, job title, role and your accessibility and dietary requirements (when attending a workshop in person).

5. What do we do with your data?

MO is the ‘controller’ of the personal information that you provide, and we will care for this data responsibly.

The Mass Observation Project

MO collects material to archive in the public interest.

The writing you provide to us, as part of your involvement with the MOP, is used for current research and cared for posterity. This means writing you submit to us may be read by a researcher within a couple of weeks of it arriving with MO, it may also be used by historians in the future. Writing is stored separately from identifiable information (such as name or contact details) using a unique code. Identifiable information is not passed on to researchers. Instead, anonymous submissions are made available for research. Non-identifiable biographical information (such as gender, year of birth or occupation) may be supplied to researchers for research or statistical purposes.

We ask you to write your unique code (rather than your name) on all your replies to Directives. Only members of MO staff can link your number to your name. To increase your privacy, we strongly encourage you to use initials or made-up names for the people you mention and to do your best not to inadvertently identify yourself within your reply. Please don't include your address or any information that may identify you personally. MO staff check writing before it is made available to researchers but to ensure your privacy it is essential that you are careful not to identify yourself.

You have the right to waive your anonymity, or to allow your family members or friends to read your writing. Please get in touch to inform us of your wishes.

The length of time that the MOP has been running means that it provides researchers with exciting opportunities for longitudinal study (looking at a writer’s responses over several years). We work with researchers undertaking this kind of work to protect your identity.

Friend’s scheme or signing up for events.

Your data supplied as part of these activities is processed as part of our public task. Where you provide your consent, we will directly communicate with you to inform you of events or send our Newsletter. If you wish to change your communication preferences, please get in touch.

Depositor contract

If you decide to donate a document to MO, we will need you to sign a contract with your contact details on. The information is needed to: provide a record of transfer of ownership and copyright, provide an audit trail of the provenance of our collections, and be used to contact you in case we have questions about the item.

6. How long do we keep your data?

We will keep your personal information related to financial transactions (such as the Friends scheme) for as long as the law requires us to (usually for the current financial year plus three further years).

Personal data collected for the MOP or depositor information will only be kept for as long as they are needed for the purpose for which they were collected.

7. Who do we share your data with?

Personal data collected to support financial donations (such as the friends' scheme) may be shared with HMRC to support Gift Aid donations as appropriate.

Anonymised personal and special category data collected through the MOP may be shared with researchers using the collection for research or statistical purposes. Data is made available to these researchers, is done using a unique code. No names or contact details are supplied. Researchers are asked to agree with user terms and conditions before being provided with access to the material.  

MO will not share your personal data with commercial companies or for third party marketing purposes.

8. How is your data kept secure?

Any data submitted to the MO is stored securely by the University of Sussex. You can read their privacy policy here.

9. What rights do I have?

You have the following rights:

  1. To be informed of howand why we process your personal data. We have sought to achieve this through this Privacy Notice
  2. To have accessto your personal data. Please contact us to discuss right
  3. To amendor rectify your personal data. This can be done by contacting us
  4. To request deletionof your personal data. Please get in touch to discuss this option
  5. To restrictand/or object to the processing of your personal data, in certain circumstances. This may include an embargo on your MOP writing. Please get in touch with MO staff to discuss this
  6. To not have a decision based solely on automated processing. We do not use automated decision making (including profiling) when planning.

10. How can I contact your Data Protection Officer?

If you have any further questions about our Privacy Notice, please feel free to contact us or the University of Sussex’s Data Protection Officer. Details can be found here.

11. When was this policy last updated?

This policy was last updated on 10 June 2021.