Data Protection Presentation

Richard Jackson made this Freedom of Information request to Rother District Council

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 successful.

Richard Jackson

Dear Sir or Madam,

At the Council meeting of 19 December 2005 a presentation was made by David Edwards, Legal Services Manager, on Data Protection.

The webpage that details the summons of that meeting (http://www.rother.gov.uk/index.cfm?artic...) does not appear to list any related media for that presentation.

Can you please make available any materials that were prepared and/or used for that presentation (for example slideshows, handouts, and/or speaking notes) and also any feedback that was received further to the presentation.

Yours faithfully,

Richard

Lynda Crawford, Rother District Council

Dear Mr Jackson
I refer to your request regarding a Data Protection Presentation.

Under section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, a request for information must comply with three requirements. It must:
(a) be in writing,
(b) state the name of the applicant and an address for correspondence, and
(c) describes the information requested.

After initial consideration, this request appears to comply with requirements (a) and (c) but it does not comply with requirement (b) because you do not provide an address for correspondence. We are entitled to this even if the request is made by e-mail and you ask us for a reply by e-mail, and we are able to comply.

Under section 14 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 we are not obliged to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious, and where we have previously complied with a request for information which was made by any person, we are not obliged to comply with a subsequent identical or substantially similar request from that person unless a reasonable interval has elapsed between compliance with the previous request and the making of the current request. The Information Commissioner has advised that a request may be regarded as vexatious if it:
• clearly does not have any serious purpose or value;
• is designed to cause disruption or annoyance;
• has the effect of harassing the public authority; or
• can otherwise fairly be characterised as obsessive or manifestly
unreasonable.

Unless we knew your real name and real address it would be more difficult for us to determine whether your request was vexatious or repeated. For instance, unless you are a professional journalist or researcher, your request would be less likely to have any serious purpose or value if you do not live in this District.

At the bottom of your e-mail you say that any reply will be published on the Internet. With reference to that, would you please note that the Act does not require us to consent to such publication and therefore, when you have supplied your address for correspondence, any response would be personal to yourself and no consent to publish it, for instance on a web site, is given. Any application for consent to re-use information will be considered under the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005, but if consent is given a charge may be made to you. Please feel free, however, to display this response on your website.

Since the coming into force of the Act we have processed over 400 separate direct requests from people who wrote letters, sent e-mails (with their name and address) to [Rother District Council request email] or used our website. In the majority of these cases we have been able to supply the information requested within the statutory time limit. We take seriously our obligation to provide advice and assistance to people who make genuine requests for information. If your request is not vexatious or repeated, then I would invite you to make your request to us direct, complying with section 8 of the Act. I assure you that having regard to the Data Protection Act 1998 we do not divulge the names or addresses of people who make requests for information.

You may use our internal complaints procedure if you are dissatisfied. If you are still dissatisfied you may appeal to the Information Commissioner. Please contact Anne Bruin, Customer Services Manager, if you wish to complain.

David Edwards
Interim Solicitor

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Richard Jackson

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am astounded by this response, which appears to be little more than an attempt to avoid complying with the Act. As you are well aware it has been long since established that an email address is a perfectly fine address for correspondence.

Your insinuations that the request may be repeated or vexatious, in generalised terms without actually declaring it to be so, are quite frankly insulting.

Please either provide the information requested or formally refuse to do so, stating your reasons in full.

Richard

David Edwards, Rother District Council

1 Attachment

Mr Jackson,

I note your comments, but the plain fact is that it has not been
"established" that an e-mail address is an "address for correspondence"
for the purposes of section 8 (1)(b). I am awaiting guidance from the
Information Commissioner.

In the meanwhile, I am concerned that this issue is creating a false
impression about this Council, and there is no point in withholding
information that is easily supplied without placing significant burdens
on the Council, so we will comply with this request on a voluntary,
without prejudice, basis.

What you asked for is my presentation about Data Protection to Members
in December 2005. I find I still have this on my computer and it is
attached. You will see from "Properties" that it hasn't been modified
since 2005. As it is almost three years old, it may no longer be
accurate and, in any event, it was prepared for the benefit of the
Members of this Council rather than anyone who accesses it over the
Internet. Accordingly, not only is copyright reserved, but it must be
clearly understood that no responsibility whatsoever is accepted for the
contents by either this Council or myself. As far as I recall there were
no written notes or feedback, although I think it was well received. In
due course I may have to give this presentation again, and if you wish
to draw my attention to any errors, that would give me an opportunity to
correct them, for which I would be grateful.

Regards,
David.
David Edwards
Interim Solicitor, Rother D.C.
Town Hall, Bexhill TN39 3JX Tel: 01424-787840
www.rother.gov.uk

P please consider the environment, and do not print this email unless it
is really necessary

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Richard Jackson

Dear Mr Edwards,

I find your comments on a correspondence address very strange. The Ministry of Justice website is very clear on this point in their guidance (http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/foi-p...) saying, in the section entitled "Return address": "If a request is received by email and no postal address is given, the email address should be treated as the return address". I have no doubt that the OIC will reiterate this, particularly as the Hansard records show that this question was raised several times in the debates over the Bill, and each time assurance was given that email would be acceptable.

In the vast majority of cases sending information by email that is already in electronic form will be easier and cheaper for the authority than posting hard-copy. And, on a Data Protection note, requesting personal details that are not required (e.g. a physical address when the response will be by email) would appear to be a breach of the Third Principle.

That said, I thank you for releasing the information anyway despite not yet having received guidance from the OIC, and I trust you will do the same with my other requests.

I will certainly let you know if I spot any errors in the presentation.

Richard

Richard Jackson

Dear Mr Edwards,

As a followup to my email of yesterday, another user has drawn my attention to OIC guidance on the issue of an email address being used as an address for correspondence.

In the "Hints for Practitioners" (available at http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/l...), it is stated (on numbered page 6 which slightly confusingly is page 8 of the PDF):

"If it is written (this includes e-mail), legible, gives the name of the applicant, an address for reply (*which could be electronic*), and includes a description of the information required, then it will fall within the scope of the legislation." [emphasis mine]

As you have now been shown that both the Ministry of Justice and the Information Commissioner have taken this position, I trust you will drop your insistence on a postal address and deal with my other requests.

Yours,

Richard

David Hansen left an annotation ()

While the position of the Council's Solicitor has been overcome with regard to postal addresses that still leaves his claims with regard to "publishing" the information on Internet.

It might be worth taking this up as well. His position is wrong, the information is not the Council's information but rather is our information paid for by us.

The Guardian's "Free our data" campaign might be interested in featuring this solicitor's claims about public data.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/fre...

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

There are (at least) two live internal reviews addressing this point:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/on...
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/cl...