Someone working for one of our sub-contractors now wants copies of all the information we have in which his name appears. Do we have to provide it?

Answered by SME SolicitorsProbably not, but consider taking legal advice. In a case in this area, the Court of Appeal decided the fact that someone’s name appears in a document does not in itself make it ‘personal data’. It will only be ‘personal data’ where its inclusion in the document affects the named individual’s privacy. In deciding whether the individual’s privacy is affected, the judges said it is important to consider:

  • whether the information is biographical – ie, whether it gives details in addition to the name
  • whether the focus is on the named individual, or whether the mention of his (or her) name is just peripheral to the purpose of the document

The judges said that the Act was not to be used as ‘an automatic key’ to force disclosure to individuals of any information in which their names are mentioned. However, this is a difficult area, which requires good legal judgement. The Information Commissioner has produced guidance on what is – or could be – personal data, in the form of a series of questions with worked examples: it is designed for public authorities, but is quite short, free of jargon and gives a good idea of how the ICO’s collective mind is working, so it is worth consulting if you have problems in this area (‘Determining what is personal data’). Take legal advice if you are still uncertain as to whether records you hold constitute ‘personal data’ and therefore have to be disclosed.

answered by Stallard, March & Edwards LLP

Please note: This is general information for educational purposes only and is not legal advice


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