The Information Tribunal will this week begin hearing an important appeal against a decision of the Information Commissioner that certain abortion statistics relating to ground (e) abortions (abortions in cases of disability) were disclosable under section 1 FOIA. The appeal concerns in particular the interesting and difficult question of whether and to what extent ostensibly anonymous, statistical information can nonetheless constitute ‘personal data’ for the purposes of the personal data exemption provided for under section 40 FOIA. Before the Commissioner, the DH argued that, whilst the information in the abortion statistics does not per se identify any particular individual, because the statistics themselves relate to a relatively small number of cases, it would still be possible to identify particular patients and/or doctors who have carried out the abortions, particularly if the statistics were married either with other information held by the DH or already in the public domain. The Commissioner was not persuaded by that argument. He held that the statistical information was so far removed from the information on the Abortion Notification forms from which the information was derived that it no longer retained the attributes of personal data. The proposition that proximity to identifying information should be the barometer of whether particular anonymous information constitutes ‘personal data’ is likely to be hotly contested before the Tribunal. Watch this space for further news! Tim Pitt-Payne will be appearing on behalf of the Commissioner.