Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Gloucestershire County Council right to refuse FOI request for petition details

ICO press release 4 April 2007:
"Gloucestershire County Council was right to withhold details of a petition under the Freedom of Information Act, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ruled.

Following a request for a copy of a petition relating to an individual’s end of tenancy review, the ICO agreed with the council that the names, addresses and signatures on the petition were the personal data of third parties and that this information is exempt from general release under the Act.

The complainant argued that the petition prejudiced his application for tenancy renewal and that a copy was required in order to pursue legal action. The ICO sought, and received, assurance from the council that the petition was not taken into account when the renewal decision was made.

In this case the Information Commissioner considered whether disclosure of the signatories details would be fair. The Commissioner decided that petitions differ and that, whilst some are generated in the public domain with no expectation of anonymity for signatories, in this case the signatories could expect that their participation would not become public.

In his decision the Information Commissioner ruled that disclosure of the information would breach the first principle of the Data Protection Act since it would not be fair to the signatories.

The Data Protection Act protects people’s personal information. It gives individuals a right of access to their own personal information but safeguards that information from disclosure to a third party, unless certain conditions are met."
Read the full text of the decision.

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