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Removing a birth certificate record from a privately owned website

John Smith made this Freedom of Information request to General Register Office

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Dear General Register Office,

Is there any possibility that a record such as a birth certificate can be made private and not widely available to the public at an individuals request, specifically in relation to the selling of said records through subscription services on websites such as ancestry.com etc.? Perhaps even removed from said services altogether? (Not sure if the right to erasure would apply here)

Any information on this regarding other types of public records would also be very appreciated, thank you.

Yours faithfully,
J. Smith

FOI, General Register Office

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GRO Policy,

Dear J Smith

 

Thank you for your email of 27 February 2021 to the General Register
Office (GRO) asking if records such as birth certificates could be made
private.

 

Your request has been handled as official correspondence rather than as a
request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000,
although this does not mean that your enquiry has been actioned any
differently or that the information provided contains any less content or
detail.

 

It may be helpful to provide some background information.  Following the
registration of a birth or death in England and Wales, both the local
registration service and GRO are obliged under the Births and Deaths
Registration Act 1953 to produce an index to these registrations.  Any
person is entitled to search the indexes and is entitled to have a
certified copy (certificate) of an entry in the register on payment of the
prescribed fee.

 

The registration record itself is not readily available to the public for
searching. Instead, the index is created and made publicly available to
enable any person to search and to obtain a certified copy of any entry.
The indexes contain a subset of the full entry and the only way to view
the full entry is by purchasing a certificate. I can confirm there is no
right to erase an index record from the central index as the Registrar
General (RG) is required by law to compile these records and make them
available.

 

Some third parties such as Ancestry, also publish index information and
make them available to the public on their own websites. 

 

However these private sector companies are responsible for the personal
data that they hold and individuals can request that their information be
removed. I have included a link to their website which you may find
helpful (see part 10 of their policy).
[1]https://www.ancestry.co.uk/cs/legal/priv...

 

I hope this information is helpful.

 

Your sincerely

 

Louise Rawson

 

Policy Team

Civil Registration Directorate

Her Majesty's Passport Office, General Register Office

 

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References

Visible links
1. https://gbr01.safelinks.protection.outlo...

Dear GRO Policy,
Hello again, sorry for the late response!

The information you provided HAS been helpful, thank you! Two more questions that expand on my original if you don't mind that would help clarify the topic for me, as my initial question was lacking in detail.

1. For sites like ancestry.com, you mentioned they're responsible for the data they hold, such as index records etc. are these websites in any way actually OBLIGATED legally to remove data from their site upon request? i.e if I were to request my own birth certificate, or record of from the index, be removed from being available on the site so that it could not be accessed through paid subscription, or even just viewed as being present on the website through a search.
I understand a lot of this is handled by the company themselves but could I feasibly have legal grounds to have my information removed from sites in that sector? Perhaps under something like the right to erasure? (bit of a stretch??) or anything else at all?

2. Is there any way I could make any of this information less public in general? Not have it removed as I understand it has to be legally recorded, rather just not so easily available through purchase of the certificates you previously mentioned or publicly available searches of the index etc. Especially for some of the aforementioned companies.

Please let me know if there's anything else I can expand on to help you answer my question, my knowledge on this topic is very limited and I may have made some mistakes.
Yours sincerely,

John Smith

GRO Policy,

Dear J Smith

Thank you for your further email of 21 March 2021.

As previously outlined, private sector companies are responsible for the personal data they hold but I am unable to comment further on their legal obligations to remove data from their websites. You may wish to contact the company directly to raise your concerns and the following link may be helpful - https://www.ancestry.co.uk/cs/legal/priv...

With regards to your enquiry to make information less public, the Registrar General and the Local Registration Service is required by law to compile index records and make them publicly available and, as previously advised, any person is entitled to search the indexes and is entitled to have a certified copy (certificate) of an entry in the register on payment of the prescribed fee.

Regards

Kayleigh Roberts

Policy Team
Civil Registration Directorate

Her Majesty's Passport Office, General Register Office Room 01, Smedley Hydro, Trafalgar Road, Southport, PR8 2HH

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Ms. S left an annotation ()

As birth records are not public records (public records act 1958- sch.1 (2) (b)) and you obviously didn't give permission for your birth certificate being on this website, maybe the question to the website owners should be, how did the obtain a copy of your birth certificate, it could have only have come from the GRO/local registry office.

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