Data Protection and FOI – how do the two interact?
The Data Protection Act 1998 came into force on 1 March 2000. It provides living individuals with a right of access to personal information held about them. The right applies to all information held in computerised form and also to non-computerised information held in filing systems structured so that specific information about particular individuals can retrieved readily.
Individuals already have the right to access information about themselves (personal data), which is held on computer and in some paper files under the Data Protection Act 1998.
The right also applies to those archives that meet these criteria. However, the right is subject to exemptions, which will affect whether information is provided. Requests will be dealt with on a case by case basis.
The Data Protection Act does not give third parties rights of access to personal information for research purposes.
The FOI Act does not give individuals access to their personal information, though if a request is made, the Data Protection Act gives the individual this right. If the individual chooses to make this information public it could be used alongside non-personal information gained by the public under the terms of the FOI Act.