Cookies on the ICO's site

Ganesh Sittampalam made this Freedom of Information request to Information Commissioner's Office

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Ganesh Sittampalam

Dear Information Commissioner’s Office,

Your plans for the ICO's website in view of the changes to the rules on cookies (http://www.ico.gov.uk/news/current_topic...) contain this statement: "Currently our website contains one cookie that we do not use, but is essential for part of the site to operate. At present we have left this in place across the site, as we’re unable to remove it from one part of the site without affecting another."

Please could you supply a copy of any documents that contain explanations of why you are unable to limit the use of this cookie just to the parts of the site where it is actually necessary, or that discuss plans for solving this problem.

I would like _all_ the information stored in any such documents, including the full sequence of bytes forming the raw storage of the document. Therefore please supply them in their original form (or as close as possible if redaction is necessary), rather than scanning printouts as per your normal practice.

Yours faithfully,

Ganesh Sittampalam

Information Commissioner's Office

Link: [1]File-List

21st December 2011

 

Reference: IRQ0428948

 

Dear Sir or Madam,

 

Thank you for your email of 20^th December 2011.

 

Your request is being dealt with in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.  We will respond by 23^rd January 2012 which is 20
working days from the day after we received your request, taking into
account the UK bank holidays.

 

Should you wish to reply to this email, please be careful not to amend the
information in the ‘subject’ field. This will ensure that the
information is added directly to your case. However, please be aware that
this is an automated process; the information will not be read by a member
of our staff until your case is allocated to a request handler.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Hannah Burling

Lead Internal Compliance Officer

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

References

Visible links
1. file:///tmp/rad107E3_files/filelist.xml

Information Commissioner's Office

5 Attachments

23 January 2012

Case Reference Number IRQ0428948

Dear Ganesh

Request for Information
 
Further to our acknowledgement of 21 December 2011 we are now in a
position to provide you with a response to your request for information
dated 20 December 2011.
 
As you know we have dealt with your request in accordance with your ‘right
to know’ under section 1(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA),
which entitles you to be provided with a copy of any information ‘held’ by
a public authority, unless an appropriate exemption applies.
 
Request
 
In your e-mail you referred to the statement dated 25 May 2011, and which
is still held on the ICO website at the link you provided, which refers to
the ICO’s own use of cookies and the issue regarding one particular
cookie.  In connection with this you have asked us to provide you with “…a
copy of any documents that contain explanations of why you are unable to
limit the use of this cookie just to the parts of the site where it is
actually necessary, or that discuss plans for solving this problem.”.
 
Information Held

Please find attached five separate documents (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part
4a and Part 4b).  These contain all the information the ICO still holds in
connection with the use and retention of this cookie, and the plans for
its fix.  This information mainly takes the form of email exchanges
internally between relevant members of ICO staff, as well as further
e-mails with, and which mention, representatives of our external website
service providers.  Please note that due to the nature of e-mail strings
there is a small amount of duplication.  Please see below for a further
explanation of what information we have chosen to withhold at this stage,
and why.
 
You had stated in your request that you would prefer us to provide you
with the information in question in its original form, including the full
sequence of bytes forming the raw storage of the document, rather than
providing you with scanned documents.  However, due to the redactions
which we have considered to be necessary (please see below), and the
software which we use to carry out these redactions, we are only able to
provide you with this information in pdf format. 
We would also refer you to our guidance which has been published on our
website about the requirements of section 11 of the FOIA and specifically
Line To Take 154 titled ‘The right to specify the form in which a copy is
provided’ (see link below).   In the section titled ‘Specific electronic
formats and means of communication’ this confirms the Commissioner’s view
that  “… although an applicant can ask for an electronic copy they are not
entitled to specify down to the next level, the specific software
format.”. 
[1]http://www.ico.gov.uk/foikb/FOIPolicyThe...
 
We therefore take the view that in providing you with an electronic copy
of the information we hold that falls within the scope of your request we
have complied with the requirements of section 1 of the FOIA.
 
By way of background information, the solution which has been proposed for
the cookie in question was tested in December, and whilst it has not yet
been implemented there are plans to do so imminently.
 
Information Withheld – Part 1
 
You will note that some information has been removed, or redacted, form
the copy documentation provided. 
 
Firstly, the names and contact details of individuals we corresponded with
at Eduserve have been removed to protect their identities.  This personal
information is exempt from disclosure to you under section 40(2) of the
FOIA, by virtue of section 40(3)(a)(i), which allows a public authority to
withhold information where disclosure would contravene one of the Data
Protection principles under the Data Protection Act 1998. 
 
We consider that the staff at Eduserve would not anticipate or expect
their details to be disclosed by the ICO to any external third party. 
Therefore, we consider that such a disclosure would be unfair and in
breach of the first Data Protection principle which states that –
“Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully …”. 
 
In addition, we have also withheld the details of one member of ICO staff
in accordance with our ‘Policy on the disclosure of staff information’. 
This applies to the name and contact details of junior staff who do not
carry out a public facing role.  For the reasons given above this
information has also been withheld in reliance on the exemption at section
40(2) of the FOIA.
 
Information Withheld – Part 2
 
Some extracts of the information contained within the documents we are
providing have also been withheld at this stage because we take the view
that the exemption at section 36(2)(c) of the FOIA is likely to apply to
this information.  Section 36 broadly applies to information which, if
disclosed, may ‘prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs’, and
section 36(2)(c) specifically allows information to be withheld from a
response to a request for information under the Act if the disclosure of
the information “would, or would be likely to, prejudice … the effective
conduct of public affairs”.  The exemption at section 36 is a ‘qualified’
exemption, and as such its application is subject to a public interest
test for and against disclosure of the information in question.
 
As you know the FOIA obliges us to respond to requests promptly, and in
any case no later than 20 working days after receiving the request. 
However when a qualified exemption applies to the information and the
public interest test is engaged, section 10(3) of the FOIA allows the time
for response to be longer than the 20 working days, and a full response
must be provided within such time as is reasonable in all circumstances of
the case. 
 
Whilst we always aim to make all decisions within 20 working days,
including cases where we need to consider where the public interest lies
in respect of a request for exempt information, we have not yet reached a
decision on where the balance of the public interest lies in respect of
these extracts of information.  We estimate that it may take up to an
additional 20 working days to take this decision.  We therefore aim to
provide you with a full response to your request for information by 17
February 2012. 
 
We apologise for this delay, but please be assured we will respond to this
remaining part of your request as soon as possible, and certainly within
this timeframe. 

If you are dissatisfied with the response you have received to our initial
response and wish to request a review of our decision or make a complaint
about how your request has been handled you should write to the Internal
Compliance Team at the address below or e-mail
[2][email address]
 
Your request for internal review should be submitted to us within 40
working days of receipt by you of this response.  Any such request
received after this time will only be considered at the discretion of the
Commissioner.
 
If having exhausted the review process you are not content that your
request or review has been dealt with correctly, you have a further right
of appeal to this office in our capacity as the statutory complaint
handler under the legislation.  To make such an application, please write
to the Case Reception Team, at the address below or visit the ‘Complaints’
section of our website to make a Freedom of Information Act or
Environmental Information Regulations complaint online.
 
A copy of our review procedure is available [3]here

Yours sincerely

Antonia Swann
Lead Internal Compliance Officer

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

References

Visible links
1. http://www.ico.gov.uk/foikb/FOIPolicyThe...
2. mailto:[email address]
3. blocked::http://www.ico.gov.uk/about_us/~/media/d...
http://www.ico.gov.uk/about_us/~/media/d...

Ganesh Sittampalam

Hi,

Thanks for your reply. One immediate question: can you describe what is being withheld under s36? The only redactions I could spot that weren't likely to be s40 seemed to be email contact details for the Eduserv support/service desk.

If that's what the information is, I am happy for those email addresses to be omitted and there's no need to continue with your public interest test considerations.

Regards,

Ganesh

Thank you for emailing the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).  This
is an automatic acknowledgement to tell you we have received your email
safely.  Please do not reply to this email.

 

If your email was about a new complaint or request for advice it will be
considered by our Customer Contact Department.  One of our case officers
will be in touch as soon as possible. 

 

If your email was about an ongoing case we are dealing with it will be
allocated to the person handling your case.

 

If your email was about a case you have already submitted, but is yet to
be allocated to one of our case officers your email will be added to your
original correspondence and will be considered when your case is
allocated.

 

If you require any further assistance please contact our Helpline on 0303
123 1133 or 01625 545745 if you prefer to use a national rate number.

 

Thank you for contacting the Information Commissioner’s Office

 

Yours sincerely

 

ICO Customer Contact Department

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

Information Commissioner's Office

25th January 2012

Case Reference Number IRQ0428948

Dear Ganesh

Request for Information

Thank you for your e-mail sent yesterday, in response to mine of 23
January 2012.

You are correct that the information which we were considering withholding
under section 36 of the FOIA was the contact details of the support and
service desk e-mail addresses for our website service providers.  These
contact addresses are not available through the websites of those
companies, but instead are intended for the use of their clients only.

Given that you have confirmed that you have no concerns about us
withholding this information from that which we have already provided, as
you have suggested we won't pursue the public interest test considerations
any further, and therefore my e-mail of 23 January can be taken as our
final response to your original request.

Yours sincerely

Antonia Swann      Lead Internal Compliance Officer
 
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire SK9 5AF.
T. 01625 545894  F. 01625 524510  [1]www.ico.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

References

Visible links
1. blocked::http://www.ico.gov.uk/
http://www.ico.gov.uk/

Ganesh Sittampalam

Hi,

I'd like to ask for an internal review of this request. As usual the full history can be found on WhatDoTheyKnow at http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/co...

I'm afraid I don't think you've supplied all the information I requested.

To ask a somewhat rhetorical question, would you choose to destroy the files you do hold on your computer system and only retain the pre-redaction PDF documents? I would argue that the reason you would not do this is that the files on your computer system contain more information than the PDFs, that is also useful to you.

As you know I asked for the "full sequence of bytes forming the raw storage of the document". Specifically, the full sequence of bytes constitutes significantly more information than just the textual content of the messages and documents that you have provided. In general it would for example for a Word document also comprise various other information such as details of the font name, size and weight, and instructions as to the layout to use in displaying the document. Previous drafts of the document or other information about recent edits might also be embedded.

For emails, the header information of the email contains various metadata about the message. For example, "References" or "In-Reply-To" information indicates which other email or emails the present email is a reply to, allowing email clients to unambiguously provide a "threaded" display of the emails. The "Received" headers would help to demonstrate that emails from outside organisations had really come from those organisations (I'm not saying there's any suspicion here that it's not the case).

I stress that these examples of information that you might hold are just illustrative and aren't an exhaustive list.

Also, I did request copies of the actual documents you hold. Although the FOI act only explicitly mentions "information", it is clear from the explanatory notes to the act[1] as well as the legislative history[2] that Parliament intended this to include documents. Again, the way in which I phrased my request does reinforce that you should have provided complete copies of the documents I requested.

As I didn't ask you to convert the information into a different format, just to provide it exactly as already held, I don't feel that your argument about s11 of FOIA is relevant here.

You also explain that your software only allows you to provide redacted documents in PDF format. Again, I don't think this is relevant to your obligation to provide all the information I requested that is not exempt. In any case a number of the documents actually have no redactions at all and so could presumably have been released without using the software at all.

If you do feel it would be particularly technically difficult or time consuming to release all the information I have requested, I would be happy to discuss the precise details of what you release with you.

As a final, and minor, part of my internal review request, I would also point out that your refusal notice did not explain why s36 applied. I realise this is a bit of a technicality, but it did mean that I had to spend some time reviewing each redaction to deduce what the reason was, in order to tell you that you didn't need to continue considering the public interest test. I also feel that the ICO should be leading by example in writing exemplary refusal notices.

Regards,

Ganesh Sittampalam

[1] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000...
[2] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...

Information Commissioner's Office

8th February 2012

Case Reference Number RCC0434331

Dear Mr Sittampalam 

Request for Review
 
Thank you for your e-mail sent earlier today, in which you have asked for
a review of our response to your information request, provided under our
reference IRQ428948.  This will be dealt with in accordance with our
review procedure, sent to you previously. 
 
In line with our procedures we will respond by 7 March 2012, which is 20
working days from the date we received your e-mail.
 
If you wish to add further information or evidence to your case please
reply to this email, being careful not to amend the information in the
‘subject’ field. This will ensure that the information is added directly
to your case. However, please be aware that this is an automated process;
the information will not be read by a member of our staff until your case
is allocated to a request handler.

Yours sincerely
 
Antonia Swann
Lead Internal Compliance Officer
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF.
Tel: 01625 545894
[1]www.ico.gov.uk
 

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

References

Visible links
1. blocked::http://www.ico.gov.uk/
http://www.ico.gov.uk/

Information Commissioner's Office

6th March 2012

Case Reference Number RCC0434331

Dear Mr Sittampalam

I am currently dealing with the internal review of our response to your
FOI request regarding cookies on the ICO’s website.
 
I understand the point you have made, in that you specifically asked not
to be sent scanned printouts and yet that is what you have been sent.  As
I understand it, you accept the redactions that have been made to the
emails, but you now want them in electronic form, with the metadata that
sits with each electronic document.
 
I would be grateful for an indication from you that this is the case.  I
am sorry I haven’t asked for this until now and that clarification was not
sought at the time of your original request.
 
I am exploring with relevant colleagues the technical aspects to ascertain
what we can achieve for you here and whether it will be necessary for us
to have a discussion about what we can release.
 
In the circumstances, due to the commitments of the few individuals who
can assist and my own availability, I’m afraid I need further time to
complete this review.  To avoid the need for any further extension, I’ll
say I will get back to you with a final response no later than Friday 30
March.  However, I hope to have done this much sooner.
 
I can also say now that I fully take on board your comments about the
refusal notice.  We could and should have explained to you the nature of
the redacted information.  I apologise for this.
 
Yours sincerely

Graham Smith     Deputy Commissioner
 
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire SK9 5AF.
T.01625 545720 F.01625 524510 [1]www.ico.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

References

Visible links
1. blocked::http://www.ico.gov.uk/
http://www.ico.gov.uk/

Ganesh Sittampalam

Dear Mr Smith,

Thanks for your reply, and apologies for taking a few days to get back to you.

I guess there are really two things underlying my complaint.

The first, is that the policy of the ICO and many other authorities to release information as scanned copies of paper documents is really unhelpful, and reduces the value of FOI releases (for example you can't copy and paste from them, nor can you search inside them). However as the position of the ICO and the FTT is that section 11 does not allow requesters to ask for one particular "electronic" format, I can't just ask for a properly readable PDF file.

So that brings me to the second, rather more legalistic point, which is essentially as outlined in my internal review request: while the law may not allow me to ask for a format of my choosing, I think it does allow me to ask for the document to be left in its original format, because all elements of that electronic document constitute information in their own right. The raw stream of bytes that I originally requested is itself useful information (as it contains instructions that computer software can process) as well as encoding various metadata and formatting information.

In the cases where you need to make redactions (which I don't think is all the documents you released), I would suggest the onus is on you to just redact the information that is exempt. I appreciate that with software like Microsoft Word it may be difficult to redact information and be confident that it isn't extractable from the raw document - although a quick Google suggests that there are various tools available that can do it - e.g. http://redaction.codeplex.com/ or http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-h... - so as I said in my review request I'd be happy to discuss the precise details of what you release if you accept the basic premise of my argument.

I hope this helps to clarify my position.

Regards,

Ganesh

casework,

Thank you for emailing the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).  This
is an automatic acknowledgement to tell you we have received your email
safely.  Please do not reply to this email.

 

If your email was about a new complaint or request for advice it will be
considered by our Customer Contact Department.  One of our case officers
will be in touch as soon as possible. 

 

If your email was about an ongoing case we are dealing with it will be
allocated to the person handling your case.

 

If your email was about a case you have already submitted, but is yet to
be allocated to one of our case officers your email will be added to your
original correspondence and will be considered when your case is
allocated.

 

If you require any further assistance please contact our Helpline on 0303
123 1133 or 01625 545745 if you prefer to use a national rate number.

 

Thank you for contacting the Information Commissioner’s Office

 

Yours sincerely

 

ICO Customer Contact Department

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

Information Commissioner's Office

30th March 2012

Case Reference Number RCC0434331

Dear Mr Sittampalam

Request for Review
 
Thank you for providing the clarification regarding your request.
 
Whilst I am sympathetic to what you are seeking to achieve I cannot reach
a final decision on this review without clear advice and understanding on
what is practically possible given our IT functionality.
 
This is the first time we have tackled this specific issue in response to
an FOI request and it has posed some interesting challenges which require
careful attention.
 
It may be that we are able to provide some but not all of the information
in the near future, and then need to revert to you regarding the
remainder.  We will be in touch again no later than 4 weeks today, ie by
27 April 2012.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Graham Smith
Deputy Commissioner
Information Commissioner’s Office

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

Ganesh Sittampalam

Dear Mr Smith,

This is just a gentle reminder that you promised an update on this by last Friday.

As the internal review is now nearly three months old, I'd also appreciate it if you could provide a target for your final response.

Regards,

Ganesh

casework,

Thank you for emailing the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).  This
is an automatic acknowledgement to tell you we have received your email
safely.  Please do not reply to this email.

 

If your email was about a new complaint or request for advice it will be
considered by our Customer Contact Department.  One of our case officers
will be in touch as soon as possible. 

 

If your email was about an ongoing case we are dealing with it will be
allocated to the person handling your case.

 

If your email was about a case you have already submitted, but is yet to
be allocated to one of our case officers your email will be added to your
original correspondence and will be considered when your case is
allocated.

 

If you require any further assistance please contact our Helpline on 0303
123 1133 or 01625 545745 if you prefer to use a national rate number.

 

Thank you for contacting the Information Commissioner’s Office

 

Yours sincerely

 

ICO Customer Contact Department

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

Information Commissioner's Office

PROTECT

4th May 2012

Case Reference Number RCC0434331

Dear Mr Sittampalam
 
Thank you for your e-mail of 2 May 2012. 
 
The issues you have raised in your previous correspondence concerning your
request for a review are still being actively considered, and whilst we
appreciate this matter is taking us some time to resolve we will contact
you again with our final response as soon as possible.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Lesley Bett      Head of Information Governance
 
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire SK9 5AF.
[1]www.ico.gov.uk
 
 
 

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

References

Visible links
1. blocked::http://www.ico.gov.uk/
http://www.ico.gov.uk/

Ganesh Sittampalam

Hi,

Thanks for your email.

I appreciate that this a complex and novel issue and I can accept that you need some time to consider it properly.

However I am also conscious that if I am unhappy with the result I may well need to progress this as far as the Tribunal, which would take some time.

I would therefore be grateful if you could provide a deadline for a final decision or at least some concrete indication of progress. Otherwise my next step would be to make an s50 complaint.

Regards,

Ganesh

casework,

Thank you for emailing the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).  This
is an automatic acknowledgement to tell you we have received your email
safely.  Please do not reply to this email.

 

If your email was about a new complaint or request for advice it will be
considered by our Customer Contact Department.  One of our case officers
will be in touch as soon as possible. 

 

If your email was about an ongoing case we are dealing with it will be
allocated to the person handling your case.

 

If your email was about a case you have already submitted, but is yet to
be allocated to one of our case officers your email will be added to your
original correspondence and will be considered when your case is
allocated.

 

If you require any further assistance please contact our Helpline on 0303
123 1133 or 01625 545745 if you prefer to use a national rate number.

 

Thank you for contacting the Information Commissioner’s Office

 

Yours sincerely

 

ICO Customer Contact Department

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

Information Commissioner's Office

PROTECT

16th May 2012

Case Reference Number RCC0434331

Dear Mr Sittampalam

Further to our correspondence of 4 May, we have nearly completed our
consideration of your request for a review and will provide you with our
final response by Friday 1 June at the latest.

Please accept our apologies for the length of time it has taken to deal
with the issues you have raised.

Yours sincerely

Lesley Bett
Head of Information Governance

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

Information Commissioner's Office

PROTECT

01 June 2012

Case Reference Number RCC0434331

Dear Mr Sittampalam

I write further to my letter of 30 March and the various correspondence
you have had with the ICO about this case since then. I apologise for the
fact that it has taken us so long to reach a conclusion on this matter. I
hope you will accept that this has been because of the novelty of the
issue for us and the need for us to understand the full potential
implications for us of disclosure in the form you have requested.
 
After careful consideration we have concluded that the information you
originally requested has already been disclosed to you, subject to
redactions that you have not challenged, and that the outstanding issue
for the internal review is one of form and format. In other words, you
have expressed a preference for the information requested to be
communicated to you in a particular form which you would find acceptable.
We provided you with copies of the requested documents, appropriately
redacted, and the provision of the information as a full sequence of bytes
in a document does not amount to a request for different or additional
information to that which appears on the face of the documents. Hence we
are treating this as a form and format issue under section 11 of the Act.
 
Having considered in conjunction with our IT advisors (both our own IT
department and our external contractors) we have concluded that it is not
reasonably practicable for us to give effect to your preference for the
purposes of section 11(1). In reaching that conclusion we have had regard
to all the circumstances, including the cost of doing so.
 
In relation to some of the documents, the ICO does not have the capability
of applying the accepted redactions to the document in the form requested.
In relation to others, the ICO does not have the capability to readily
interpret and thus understand the information which the full sequence of
bytes could potentially reveal. The FOI Act cannot reasonably be applied
so as to put a public authority into a position where it has to disclose
information in a form which it cannot itself interpret.
 
In our view there is a strong argument for saying that the full sequence
of bytes does not amount to information for the purposes of Act at all.
I’m sure that the issues raised by this internal review are certainly not
ones which were considered when the Act was being drafted.
 
We have considered the re-use potential of the information requested. We
have concluded that information of this kind is not appropriate for
re-use. Re-use would be of no public benefit. This is a further relevant
consideration in this case, in the light of the open data agenda.
 
I am sorry this outcome is not what you have been hoping for. We have
approached your request constructively with a view to trying to
accommodate your preference under section 11, but have concluded that it
is not reasonably practicable for us. That is the ICO’s formal
determination on internal review. Again, I apologise for the time this has
taken, but this is an indication of the extent to which we have wrestled
with the issues raised.
 

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the review you may make a
section 50 complaint to the ICO. 

How to complain

Information on how to complain is available on the ICO website at:
[1]http://www.ico.gov.uk/complaints/freedom...

By post: If your supporting evidence is in hard copy, you can fill in the
Word version of our complaint form, print it out and post it to us with
your supporting evidence. A printable Freedom of Information Act
complaints form is available from the ICO website. Please send to:
Case Reception Unit
First Contact Team
Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire SK9 5AF

By email: If all your supporting evidence is available electronically, you
can fill in our online complaint form. Important: information included in
the form, and any supporting evidence will be sent to us by email.

Yours sincerely

 
Graham Smith
 
Deputy Commissioner

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

References

Visible links
1. http://www.ico.gov.uk/complaints/freedom...

Ganesh Sittampalam

Dear Mr Smith,

Thank you for your letter of 1st June. I have no problem with the time it has taken to consider this review, although I do remain a little unhappy with the failure to meet your own deadline for an update and the lack of communication about timescales.

I also feel your reply is rather lacking in detail. For example, my review request clearly identified other pieces of information that would likely be held in the documents I requested, but you have not addressed that at all.

I would also suggest that bytes of data stored on a computer are very clearly information held by the ICO and it would require a strong argument to go behind the plain meaning of the words passed by Parliament.

With regard to your arguments about the difficulties of understanding and redacting the information you hold, it would be helpful if you would provide details of the file format of the documents as for example some Microsoft file formats are publicly documented.

I will be pursuing this via a s50 complaint but I would be happy to continue discussing the issues informally in the meantime.

Yours faithfully,

Ganesh Sittampalam

casework,

Thank you for emailing the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).  This
is an automatic acknowledgement to tell you we have received your email
safely.  Please do not reply to this email.

 

If your email was about a new complaint or request for advice it will be
considered by our Customer Contact Department.  One of our case officers
will be in touch as soon as possible. 

 

If your email was about an ongoing case we are dealing with it will be
allocated to the person handling your case.

 

If your email was about a case you have already submitted, but is yet to
be allocated to one of our case officers your email will be added to your
original correspondence and will be considered when your case is
allocated.

 

If you require any further assistance please contact our Helpline on 0303
123 1133 or 01625 545745 if you prefer to use a national rate number.

 

Thank you for contacting the Information Commissioner’s Office

 

Yours sincerely

 

ICO Customer Contact Department

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

Rob Willis left an annotation ()

If your legal interpretation is correct and FOI can be forced to be submitted as raw data, then documents could no longer be redacted. I'm just wondering if this is what you're actually hoping to achieve because with the greatest respect, your request did seem rather loaded from the outset.

I can smell a test case here.

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

Yes, it is intended as a test case - it wouldn't be worth the effort over just one request, though I am genuinely interested in the information too.

If I'm right, it doesn't mean that they can't redact, just that they have to limit the information they remove when redacting, keeping the document as close as possible to the original.

The WhatDoTheyKnow software already does this for several document formats to remove email addresses and mobile phone numbers, so it's certainly feasible to do it in at least some cases.

As I said in my internal review request, I'm happy to discuss the precise details of how they conduct the redaction as some cases will be easier than others, but I guess they are unwilling to concede the principle at all.

Information Commissioner's Office

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12th June 2012

Case Reference Number RCC0434331

Dear Mr Sittampalam

Thank you for your e-mail of 11 June 2012 addressed to Graham Smith,
Deputy Commissioner.
 
It is apparent that you are not wholly satisfied with the response we have
provided to your request for a review.  Although you have indicated your
intention to pursue this further by submitting a complaint under section
50 of the FOIA, you have also suggested that in the meantime you would be
happy to continue to discuss the wider issues relating to your original
request and our subsequent responses.
 
Whilst we appreciate your willingness to enter into an informal dialogue,
we think in this instance it would be more appropriate for the matter to
follow due process, and as such would suggest that a s50 complaint is the
most suitable way forward.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Lesley Bett     
Head of Information Governance
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

This is being considered by the Information Commissioner under case reference FS50448720.

Information Commissioner's Office

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16th October 2012

Case Reference Number RCC0434331

Dear Mr Sittampalam
  
Further to your complaint to the Information Commissioner about the
response you received from the ICO in respect of your original request for
information of 20 December 2011, Senior Case Officer for the Commissioner
Andrew Battersby has contacted us to discuss the issues arising from your
complaint, and to see if your concerns can be resolved informally prior to
the issue of any decision notice.

As part of its consideration of your complaint, the ICO considered further
the issue of what constitutes ‘information’ within the scope of section 1
of the FOIA, and the extent to which this entitles you to be provided with
“…all the information stored in any such documents, including the full
sequence of bytes forming the raw storage of the document”, in line with
your original request.  We fully accept that in making this request you
were effectively asking us to provide you with the information in its
original format.
Information for the purposes of the Act can include more than just the
text or visual appearance of a document, and can also include the document
properties, formatting information, and other metadata stored in a public
authority’s software systems.  However, it is not accepted that the ‘full
sequence of bytes’ is in itself separate information that must be provided
under the Act.  The ICO’s view is that the bytes are merely the format in
which the relevant information (ie the text and metadata) is stored by the
computer.  It is accepted that the full sequence of bytes may also encode
other ‘raw data’, but if this is not intentionally recorded as part of the
document it would not be considered to be information held for the
purposes of the Act.

This means that there is no obligation under s1 of the Act to provide “the
full sequence of bytes” or the document in its original software format in
order to provide all the information.  Where it is the case that the
requester is seeking not just the text of a document but also some
metadata recorded in the software, which the public authority can readily
access, the public authority is under an obligation to consider the
request in accordance with the Act.  However, recorded metadata does not
have to be provided in the format of bytes, as long as it is communicated
to the requester.

With this in mind, Mr Battersby has recommended that we reconsider your
original request for information and your subsequent correspondence with
us, and seek clarification from you on exactly what metadata you are
particularly interested in for each of the items of information we have
already provided to you.  Once we have received your clarification we
should be in a position to identify and locate the relevant metadata and,
subject to any relevant exemption(s), provide it to you. 
 
In your e-mail of 8 February 2012, in which you requested a review of our
original response, you referred to some examples of metadata which may be
of interest to you, such as ““References” or “In-Reply-To” information
indicates which other e-mail or e-mails the present e-mail is a reply to,
allowing e-mail clients to unambiguously provide a “threaded” display of
the e-mails. The “Received” headers would help to demonstrate that e-mails
from outside organisations has really come from those organisations”. 
However you pointed out this was not an exhaustive list.  It may be the
case that you are also interested in accessing descriptive formatting
information visible in Word software, routing information of e-mails and
other document properties, but again these are just examples.

We would also mention that since we responded to your original request on
23 January 2012 some of the e-mails which we held at that time have now
been deleted in line with our normal course of business.  Therefore, the
original items of information which we do still hold are described as
follows, and are contained within three of the five attachments sent to
you with our response of 23 January:

Part 1  

* Internal ICO e-mail string dated 13 June 2011
* Internal ICO e-mail string dated 19 July 2011
* Internal ICO e-mail dated 17 August 2011
* ICO word document dated 16 August 2011, sent as attachment to e-mail
* Internal ICO e-mail string dated 10 November 2011

Part 2

* Internal ICO e-mail dated 24 June 2011
* Internal ICO e-mail string dated 1 December 2011
* Internal ICO e-mail string dated 9 December 2011

Part 3

* Eduserv e-mail string to the ICO dated 4 November 2011

Can you please therefore provide us with an indication of the particular
items of metadata you require access to in respect of each, or indeed all,
of the information we still hold as listed above. 

Once you have provided the clarification we seek we will again consider
your request and provide you with an appropriate response.
We look forward to hearing from you shortly.
 
Yours sincerely
 

Charlotte Powell
Information Governance Manager
 

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Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

Ganesh Sittampalam

Hi,

Thanks for your updated position on what information you hold. Mr Battersby has also pointed me at your updated guidance at
http://www.ico.gov.uk/~/media/documents/...

As you might guess, I don't agree with your position on the "other raw data" in the documents. There is no language in the
Act to distinguish "unintentionally" recorded information and in any case the software that recorded the information was acting under your control; you could have chosen to save the documents in another file format which would have led to different (or no) other information being recorded.

Turning to your question about what metadata I am interested in, I think the answer is clear from my original request without requiring further clarification: I would like all the metadata the documents contain.

I realise that if you were to extract this information one piece at a time, it might be quite time consuming, and may well breach the costs limit; but from my point of view that would be a rather wasteful exercise as I would like to receive it exactly as it is currently stored and so no such extraction is necessary or wanted.

I do remain happy to discuss any specific difficulties you may have with releasing the information I have requested.

Finally, I'm a little disappointed that you have allowed information that was in dispute to be disposed of in the normal course of business; I would appreciate it if you could take steps to ensure that the remaining information is preserved until the conclusion of this case, if you haven't done so already.

Regards,

Ganesh Sittampalam

Thank you for emailing the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).  This
is an automatic acknowledgement to tell you we have received your email
safely.  Please do not reply to this email.

 

If your email was about a new complaint or request for advice it will be
considered by our Customer Contact Department.  One of our case officers
will be in touch as soon as possible. 

 

If your email was about an ongoing case we are dealing with it will be
allocated to the person handling your case.

 

If your email was about a case you have already submitted, but is yet to
be allocated to one of our case officers your email will be added to your
original correspondence and will be considered when your case is
allocated.

 

If you require any further assistance please contact our Helpline on 0303
123 1133 or 01625 545745 if you prefer to use a national rate number.

 

Thank you for contacting the Information Commissioner’s Office

 

Yours sincerely

 

ICO Customer Contact Department

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

Information Commissioner's Office

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13th November 2012

Case Reference Number RCC0434331

Dear Mr Sittampalam

Further to your e-mail to the ICO of 21 October, thank you for clarifying
the extent to which you still want us to provide you with the 'other raw
data', or metadata, associated with the information which we have
previously provided. 
 
We have already taken steps to locate and extract the metadata you seek,
but as this is a technical process which has required the input of our IT
contractors it is taking a little longer to conclude than we originally
anticipated.
 
We do apologise for this further delay, but hope to be able to provide you
with a final response by this Friday, 16^th November, at the latest.

Yours sincerely

Charlotte Powell
Information Governance Manager

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Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

Information Commissioner's Office

PROTECT

21st November 2012

Case Reference Number RCC0434331

Dear Mr Sittampalam

I write further to my email to you of 13 November concerning your
information request to the Commissioner and to advise you of our view
concerning this matter.
 
As you are aware we contacted you on 16 October to seek clarification from
you as to the metadata that you were seeking which was done under the
provisions of section 16(1) of FOIA. As there is no one clear definition
or a common understanding of the term metadata without this clarification
we were unclear as to the exact recorded information you were seeking.
 
You response to our enquires was ‘ Turning to your question about what
meta data I am interested in I think the answer is clear from my original
request without requiring further clarification; I would like all the
metadata the documents contain’.
 
As explained in my previous email, we have been seeking technical advice
both internally and externally in order to clarify what information this
office, as a public authority, may hold in terms of metadata on its
systems and what therefore could possibly be provided to you to answer
your request.
 
The result of this lengthy exercise has confirmed that without sufficient
clarification from you we are not able to provide you with the information
you may possibly be seeking.  As mentioned above there is no clear
definition of what constitutes metadata and without any further
clarification, which we have attempted to seek, we would now advise you we
are unable to respond to the part of your request that refers to metadata.
We believe therefore that Section 1(3) applies and that therefore we are
not obliged to respond to your request.
 
Finally, I would like to apologise for the length of time is has taken for
us to draw this conclusion. I am sure however you will understand this has
been a novel and complex issue for the ICO which has been the subject of
detailed consideration and investigation.
 
Yours sincerely

Charlotte Powell
Information Governance Manager

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

Ganesh Sittampalam

Dear Information Commissioner’s Office,

Thanks for your email. As I understand this represents your final position, I will look forward to the Commissioner's decision notice on the subject; but for the sake of completeness I set out my own response below.

I think the difficulty in identifying metadata stems from your own decision to effectively reinterpret my original request as being for the content and metadata of the document; in your email of 16th October you introduced the concept of a distinction between intentionally recorded metadata and unintentionally recorded raw data.

I would therefore suggest it is for you to define that distinction more precisely (and thus identify what metadata is intentionally recorded) if you feel you need to in order to answer my request as you have reinterpreted it.

For my part I maintain that the raw bytes are information in themselves; and in any case both metadata and raw data are captured equally by my request without needing to identify which is which.

Even if raw data is not captured by my request, there is no prohibition on you releasing it, and you can therefore straightforwardly answer your own interpretation of my request by releasing the raw bytes, leaving me to extract any metadata I want for myself. I remain happy to discuss any technical difficulties this may pose in the case of documents that require redaction.

Regards,

Ganesh Sittampalam

Thank you for emailing the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).  This
is an automatic acknowledgement to tell you we have received your email
safely.  Please do not reply to this email.

 

If your email was about a new complaint or request for advice it will be
considered by our Customer Contact Department.  One of our case officers
will be in touch as soon as possible. 

 

If your email was about an ongoing case we are dealing with it will be
allocated to the person handling your case.

 

If your email was about a case you have already submitted, but is yet to
be allocated to one of our case officers your email will be added to your
original correspondence and will be considered when your case is
allocated.

 

If you require any further assistance please contact our Helpline on 0303
123 1133 or 01625 545745 if you prefer to use a national rate number.

 

Thank you for contacting the Information Commissioner’s Office

 

Yours sincerely

 

ICO Customer Contact Department

show quoted sections

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113 Fax: 01625 524 510 Web: www.ico.gov.uk

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

The ICO has ruled against me: http://www.comply-promptly.org.uk/raw-by...

I'll be appealing this to the Tribunal. Help/advice welcome! https://secure.mysociety.org/admin/lists...

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

The Tribunal appeal number is EA/2013/0010.

After some discussion, I've agreed to settle this with the ICO. The ICO have released the entire original Word document that was attached to one of the emails, as well as the raw HTML and header information behind the emails they still retain.

I'll post these on the thread and write a blog post about the whole story as soon as I have time.

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

During the course of the appeal, I explicitly listed the metadata that had been previously discussed during this request. It was that explicit list that seems to have led to the release of information and the appeal being settled. The metadata I asked for was:

From my email of 8th February 2012:
a. Font names, size, weight
b. Layout instructions
c. Previous drafts of the document
d. Information about recent edits
e. Header information from emails

From the Commissioner's guidance:
a. author
b. dates
c. editing history
d. size
e. file paths
f. security settings
g. any email routing history