Data protection protects people's privacy and freedom of information promotes openness in public bodies. The Information Commissioner has emphasised that information rights must be taken seriously and was given enhanced powers in 2010 to enforce the law. Public and private sector organisations hold a considerable amount of personal data, and require advice on the application of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and the creation of appropriate policies to ensure they do not fall foul of the law in processing information.
The Freedom of Information (FOIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) came into force on 1 January 2005 and introduced a 'right to know'. Approximately 100,000 public bodies are subject to the act including publicly owned companies and there is provision for public bodies exercising functions of a public nature contracting with a local authority to provide a service which is a function of that authority, to be designated as public authorities subject to the FOIA. The Coalition Government's transparency agenda is aimed at increasing accountability and it has recently announced plans to extend the scope of the FOIA to include housing associations.
We regularly advise clients on the DPA and the FOIA and EIR, draft clauses and policies, assist in responding to data subject access requests and complex FOIA requests, and on issues that arise in response to complaints referred to the Information Commissioner.