Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Guidance 10 and 12 available from the Information Commissioner

Freedom of Information Act Awareness Guidance No 12: When is information caught by the Freedom of Information Act?

Some interesting aspects covered relating to email:

"Personal written communications (emails etc.) Even if the private use of emails in the workplace were monitored, the public authority would still not “hold” this information as it has no interest in it, unless disciplinary action were taken against a particular member(s) of staff. This is, however, an exception rather than the rule. Problems may arise, however, in terms of hybrid emails, which contain a mixture of personal content and that relating to the duties of the employee. The information which falls within the latter classification is potentially disclosable, and so as part of good email management the formulation of such emails should be avoided."

and Party Political communications:

"Party political communications A common example of party political communications would be emails between councillors which discuss party political matters. In this context the author will be communicating in their party political capacity and the emails would not relate to the functions of the public authority. These communications would therefore not be “held” for the purposes of FOI."

Freedom of Information Act Awareness Guidance No 10: The Defence Exemption

The defence exemption will not just effect the MoD: "The exemption is not for “defence information” but for information whose disclosure would or would be likely to prejudice defence matters. In addition to information about weaponry, troop deployments etc which might be expected to be covered by the exemption, there may be other information, for instance information as to fuel supplies, whose disclosure might assist an enemy in some circumstances. By the same token, it should not be assumed that the information covered by the exemption will only be held by the MoD or the armed forces. For instance, there may be information held by fire authorities and others involved in emergency planning. During a recent fire fighters’ strike, troops were deployed to provide a basic fire service. Information about the deployment of those troops, including the numbers involved, may have been exempt under s.26 if to disclose it would have been to assist an enemy. It would have made no difference"

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