National Archives of the Netherlands (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science)

Preservation of personal data

It is often thought that the Personal Data Protection Act (WBP) makes the destruction of personal data obligatory. That is not so. The WBP states that certain personal data (for example, concerning race or political dispositions) must be destroyed if it is no longer needed by the responsible organisation for the purpose it was originally collected. Disposal can also take place by transferring the records concerned to an archival repository. This is specified in article 2a of the Public Records Act.

The value afforded to the file in a pre-determined retention schedule determines whether a file or part of a file with particular personal data eventually arrives at a repository or is destroyed. After transfer to a repository, such archival files (or parts thereof) are only provisionally accessible for (or with the consent of) the parties concerned and for scholarly research. If the parties concerned are deceased, then as a rule, anyone can consult the file.

Because personal data can later often be important for later historical research, the Nationaal Archief has together with the Institute for Dutch History (ING) formulated a number of criteria to guide the government in preservation of random samples of personal dossiers. These criteria are specified in the ‘Nota Persoonsdossiers’ and must be used when appreciating the value of files contained in the personal dossiers.