Postbox Data in Central Collections Management Database

Robert Whittaker made this Freedom of Information request to Royal Mail Group Limited
This authority is not subject to FOI law, so is not legally obliged to respond (details).


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.

Robert Whittaker

Dear Royal Mail Group,

In response to FOI requests, you have previously supplied data on postboxes, including their location descriptions, postcodes, and collection times. From your reply to my recent FOI request [1] I believe that this information has been taken from your "Final Plate Database". Analysis I've done with this data indicates there are a number of missing and/or duplicated boxes in this data, as well as other errors.

However, your reply to my request [1] suggests that there may be similar information on postboxes contained within your "Central Collections Management Database". If this is used to record actual collections, I'm thinking that the data that it contains may well be more accurate.

I'd therefore like to know whether your "Central Collections Management Database" does include information about each postbox, and exactly what information about each box is stored there.

If it does, I would like an extract from this database listing each postbox, with whatever of the following is held there: it's number, location description, postcode, and last collection times. For each box, I'd also like whatever location coordinates / data is used to calculate the "Position of Box on an electronic map" (as mentioned in your reply to [1]).

I would like this postbox data in electronic form, in a format allows it to be easily parsed programmatically. My preferred format would be 'tab-separated values' (TSV), but any other delimited plain text format, or even an MS Excel spreadsheet would be acceptable. What I want to avoid is the data being in a PDF file that's only any good for viewing and printing.

Many thanks,

Robert Whittaker

[1] FOI Request for "Information on Postbox Data" -- full correspondence available at http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/in...

Royal Mail Group Limited

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Whittaker

Thank you for your request for information received on 17/03/2010, which
we are considering under the Freedom of Information Act. Under the Act
you should expect a reply from us to be sent by 16/04/2010, which is
twenty working days from receipt of your request.

If for any reason we are unable to provide you with a full response within
that time, we will contact you explaining the reasons for this and giving
a revised date by which we will reply.

If in the mean time you have any questions or would like to contact us
about your request, please contact us by telephone 01252 806513 or
alternatively email or write to us at the address below. Please be
assured that we are giving this our attention and will get back to you
shortly.

Yours sincerely

John Cere
[1][Royal Mail Group request email]
Freedom of Information Unit
PO Box 341, ALDERSHOT, GU11 1WW

Royal Mail is a trading name of Royal Mail Group Ltd. Registered in
England and Wales.
Registered number 4138203. Registered office at 100 Victoria Embankment,
LONDON, EC4Y 0HQ

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Royal Mail Group request email]

Royal Mail Group Limited

2 Attachments

Dear Mr. Whittaker

Please find attached a response to your recent Freedom of Information
Request.

Yours sincerely

Daniel Tulp
Freedom of Information Case Officer
[Royal Mail Group request email]

Royal Mail is a trading name of Royal Mail Group Ltd. Registered in
England and Wales.
Registered number 4138203. Registered office at 100 Victoria Embankment,
LONDON, EC4Y 0HQ

Robert Whittaker

Dear Royal Mail Group,

Thank you for your reply, but I'm afraid I must request an internal review of your decision to withhold the postbox list and location data. When conducting the review, please consider the following points:

* It is appropriate to apply the "commercial interests" exemption to information relating to post-box provision.

The ICO document "Freedom of Information Act Awareness Guidance No 5" [1] states that "Where a company enjoys a monopoly over the provision of the goods or services in question it is less likely that releasing the information will have a prejudicial impact on that company." In the case of posting boxes, Royal Mail has an effective monopoly on their provision in most parts of the country. It is also hard to see how some outdated information about postbox locations is likely to lead to an actual loss of business for Royal Mail.

* Concern about datedness and misunderstandings of the released data itself can be eliminated by Royal Mail

If Royal Mail is worried about the information released being misinterpreted or mis-used by primary users, then it can ensure that it is presented in an appropriate fashion, with whatever warnings and caveats deemed necessary. Any worries about it becoming out of date can be addressed by ensuring the information is dated. Royal Mail is of course free to supply updated copies as and when they feel it would be appropriate.

* It is inappropriate to apply the exemption relating to possible downstream mis-use of the data.

Supplying information under the Freedom of Information Act does not require the public authority to relinquish any copyright or database rights they have in the information. In this particular case, the Royal Mail's database right would protect the data from being copied and distributed outside of Royal Mail's control. I therefore do not feel that it is appropriate to apply the exemption to how the information may be mis-used by third parties once it has been published. A restriction could easily be imposed Royal Mail that any downstream users must make it clear that the data is their responsibility, not Royal Mail's.

* Releasing the data will actually improve the quality of publicly
available information in relation to post-box locations

Postbox locations are already being recorded in two crowd-sourced open-data projects [2,3], which between them have locations stored for around 1/3 of all Royal Mail boxes. Some of those locations are likely to be inaccurate / outdated, so the public may already be being misled. I am sure that both these projects will use any additional data responsibly, to ensure that it improves the accuracy of their existing offerings. These offering will continue whether or not you provide the data, but will be more inaccurate without it.

In particular, OpenStreetMap will not be able to import the lat/long positions of boxes directly, as they would be tainted by Royal Mail' Database rights, and possibly Ordnance Survey IP rights too. Instead, the new location data would be used to identify boxes that are missing from the map or may be inaccurately mapped, in order to allow mappers to conduct their own survey.

Therefore the released data will actually be used to improve the quality of publicly available information in relation to post-box locations, rather than simply providing a single imperfect source. Therefore if Royal Mail's commercial interests are affected in any way by the release of this data -- as claimed by Royal Mail -- then it will in fact be to help them.

* Relationship to previous requests

There have been several previous requests for information relating to postbox locations and information. Royal Mail has had no problem supplying the information previously (despite it containing numerous errors and omissions), though precise location details were not included then. I therefore assume that it is only the location coordinates that are causing the problem this time. That being the case, I would ask for immediate disclosure of the remaining information on each postbox in the Central Collections Database, or an explanation of which FOI exemption applies to this data that did not apply previously.

To pre-empt a possible argument that the data is already available from the Final Plate Database [4], I would point to the various errors and duplicates in that data. I would specifically like to know about the information stored in the Collections Management Database, in order to compare it with that from the Final Plate Database. Unless you can certify that the two datasets are identical, there is information in the former that is not contained in the latter.

Regards,

Robert Whittaker

PS: I also note in passing that Royal Mail has previously denied holding any coordinate location data for postboxes [5], and has not mentioned the existence of this data in follow-up requests for up-to-date copies of that data. It is rather annoying to now find that such data does now indeed exist. If the coordinate data existed at the time of the original request [5], then Royal Mail provided an inaccurate response, and I hope they will now be offering a formal apology for their error.

[1] http://www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/l...
[2] OpenStreetMap: http://www.openstreetmap.org/
[3] Dracos Postbox Locator: http://www.dracos.co.uk/play/locating-po...
[4] http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/po...
[5] http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/lo...

Royal Mail Group Limited

Dear Whittaker

Thank you for your request for information received on 26/04/2010, which we
are considering under the Freedom of Information Act. Under the Act you
should expect a reply from us to be sent by 25/05/2010, which is twenty
working days from receipt of your request.

If for any reason we are unable to provide you with a full response within
that time, we will contact you explaining the reasons for this and giving a
revised date by which we will reply.

If in the mean time you have any questions or would like to contact us
about your request, please contact us by telephone 01923 215 110 or
alternatively email or write to us at the address below. Please be assured
that we are giving this our attention and will get back to you shortly.

Yours sincerely

MF Khushi
[Royal Mail Group request email]
Freedom of Information Unit
Royal Mail Sheffield
2nd Floor
Pond Street
Sheffield
S98 6HR

Royal Mail is a trading name of Royal Mail Group Ltd. Registered in England
and Wales.
Registered number 4138203. Registered office at 100 Victoria Embankment,
LONDON, EC4Y 0HQ

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Royal Mail Group Limited

Dear Mr Whittaker

I must apologise for the way my previous email was addressed to you.

Thank you for your request for information received on 26/04/2010, which we
are considering under the Freedom of Information Act. Under the Act you
should expect a reply from us to be sent by 25/05/2010, which is twenty
working days from receipt of your request.

If for any reason we are unable to provide you with a full response within
that time, we will contact you explaining the reasons for this and giving a
revised date by which we will reply.

If in the mean time you have any questions or would like to contact us
about your request, please contact us by telephone 01923 215 110 or
alternatively email or write to us at the address below. Please be assured
that we are giving this our attention and will get back to you shortly.

Yours sincerely

MF Khushi
[Royal Mail Group request email]
Freedom of Information Unit
Royal Mail Sheffield
2nd Floor
Pond Street
Sheffield
S98 6HR

Royal Mail is a trading name of Royal Mail Group Ltd. Registered in England
and Wales.
Registered number 4138203. Registered office at 100 Victoria Embankment,
LONDON, EC4Y 0HQ

show quoted sections

Royal Mail Group Limited

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Whittaker

Please find attached a response to your request for an Internal Review from
Royal Mail Group.
(See attached file: Whittaker IR 25 May 2010.pdf)
Yours sincerely

Colin Young
Freedom of Information Manager
[Royal Mail Group request email]

Royal Mail is a trading name of Royal Mail Group Ltd. Registered in England
and Wales.
Registered number 4138203. Registered office at 100 Victoria Embankment,
LONDON, EC4Y 0HQ

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Robert Whittaker left an annotation ()

I submitted a complaint to the Information Commissioner about Royal Mail's handling of this request on 25th June 2010. I head back on 6th August that my complaint has now been allocated to a case resolution team and assigned the case reference number FS50319573.

Royal Mail Group Limited

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Whittaker,

Please find attached a letter concerning your request for information from
Royal Mail Group.
(See attached file: Whittaker 06 Dec 2010.pdf)
Yours sincerely

Colin Young
Freedom of Information Manager
[Royal Mail Group request email]

Royal Mail is a trading name of Royal Mail Group Ltd. Registered in England
and Wales.
Registered number 4138203. Registered office at 100 Victoria Embankment,
LONDON, EC4Y 0HQ

show quoted sections

Robert Whittaker left an annotation ()

Decision notice from the Information Commissioner http://www.ico.gov.uk/~/media/documents/...

The Commissioner has decided that section 43(2) was correctly engaged with regard to information which concerns or reveals the location of postboxes. The Commissioner does not consider that the remaining information falls within any of the exemptions cited. The Commissioner therefore requires that this information should be disclosed. Furthermore the Commissioner considers that the Royal Mail breached section 1(1)(b) and section 10(1) in the handling of this request.

Royal Mail Group Limited

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Whittaker,

Please find attached a letter concerning your request for information from
Royal Mail Group.
(See attached file: Whittaker 16-06-2011.doc)(See attached file: Whittaker
Annex.txt)
Yours sincerely

Colin Young
Information Governance Team
[Royal Mail Group request email]

Royal Mail is a trading name of Royal Mail Group Ltd. Registered in England
and Wales.
Registered number 4138203. Registered office at 100 Victoria Embankment,
LONDON, EC4Y 0HQ

show quoted sections

Robert Whittaker left an annotation ()

The list supplied above contains the details for 112739 post boxes, in a convenient CSV format. :-)

The number of boxes is about 3000 less than on previous lists supplied by Royal Mail, but this may well be accounted for by their earlier statement that "the database is only for Pillar Boxes and not Post Office counters or business boxes". So Meter Mail boxes are presumably not included here, when they were on the previous lists.

Robert Whittaker left an annotation ()

A more up to date version of this data (July 2012) has been requested and supplied by Royal Mail. See: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/po...

This second list now also includes Post Offices and Business Boxes.

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