Feeds

Freedom of Information Act 'making a difference' to UK

Info Commissioner pleased with progress

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has issued new guidelines for the public sector on how to deal with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and data protection requirements.

In the first annual report from the ICO since the FOI Act came into force, the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, says that it is already clear that the new laws are making a difference, and that he is encouraged by the progress so far.

"At every level of public life, a great deal of material has been published which has never before seen the light of day...The success of these laws will not be judged by how many requests are made or complaints upheld, but by the readiness of public bodies to release information, proactively or on request," he writes.

On data protection, he acknowledges that "We can't do this because of data protection" is too often invoked by "lazy or incompetent organisations" as an excuse not to do something. He adds: "The law very rarely stops a valid activity altogether. Rather it regulates how information should be handled so that there are no surprises and no mistakes."

He notes that although there have been complaints about disclosure refusals (over 1,000 to date) the majority of refusals are not challenged.

However, around half of the complaints filed cover procedural issues, suggesting that public bodies are still not totally clear about their obligations and responsibilities under the Act. This has prompted the ICO to collate new top-level guidelines for public bodies dealing with requests for information.

The guidelines (which you can read in full on this pdf) broadly encourage public bodies to be positive and proactive about releasing information. "Don't wait to be asked" says one tip, "Supply additional information, where it is useful" says another. It also recommends being extremely clear about the reasons when a request has to be refused, and reminds organisations that the 20 day deadline must be met.

"The principles and rights available under freedom of information laws provide a powerful reminder that governments serve the people, not the other way round," Thomas says. We can't help but agree with that sentiment, even if there are 210 reasons to refuse a request for information.

You can read the full report (also a pdf) here. ®

Related stories

210 reasons to refuse a Freedom of Information request
Firemen challenge £31m planned IT bill
General election debate misses purpose of ID cards

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness
We suffered 'random bouts of graphical distortion' - fanbois
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Verizon bankrolls tech news site, bans tech's biggest stories
No agenda here. Just don't ever mention Net neutrality or spying, ok?
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.