Section 40 of FOIA is where the Freedom of Information Act (mantra: disclose, please) intersects with the Data Protection Act 1998 (mantra: be careful how you process/disclose, please).
When it comes to requests for the disclosure of personal data under FOIA, the DPA condition most commonly relied upon to justify showing the world the personal data of a living individual is condition 6(1) from Schedule 2:
The processing is necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the data controller or by the third party or parties to whom the data are disclosed, except where the processing is unwarranted in any particular case by reason of prejudice to the rights and freedoms or legitimate interests of the data subject.
That condition has multiple elements. What do they mean, and how do they mesh together? In Goldsmith International Business School v IC and Home Office (GIA/1643/2014), the Upper Tribunal (Judge Wikeley) has given its view. See here Goldsmiths. This comes in the form of its endorsement of the following 8 propositions (submitted by the ICO, represented by 11KBW’s Chris Knight).
Proposition 1: Condition 6(1) of Schedule 2 to the DPA requires three questions to be asked:
(i) Is the data controller or the third party or parties to whom the data are disclosed pursuing a legitimate interest or interests?
(ii) Is the processing involved necessary for the purposes of those interests?
(iii) Is the processing unwarranted in this case by reason of prejudice to the rights and freedoms or legitimate interests of the data subject?
Proposition 2: The test of “necessity” under stage (ii) must be met before the balancing test under stage (iii) is applied.
Proposition 3: “Necessity” carries its ordinary English meaning, being more than desirable but less than indispensable or absolute necessity.
Proposition 4: Accordingly the test is one of “reasonable necessity”, reflecting the European jurisprudence on proportionality, although this may not add much to the ordinary English meaning of the term.
Proposition 5: The test of reasonable necessity itself involves the consideration of alternative measures, and so “a measure would not be necessary if the legitimate aim could be achieved by something less”; accordingly, the measure must be the “least restrictive” means of achieving the legitimate aim in question.
Proposition 6: Where no Article 8 privacy rights are in issue, the question posed under Proposition 1 can be resolved at the necessity stage, i.e. at stage (ii) of the three-part test.
Proposition 7: Where Article 8 privacy rights are in issue, the question posed under Proposition 1 can only be resolved after considering the excessive interference question posted by stage (iii).
The UT also added this proposition 8, confirming that the oft-cited cases on condition 6(1) were consistent with each other (proposition 8: The Supreme Court in South Lanarkshire did not purport to suggest a test which is any different to that adopted by the Information Tribunal in Corporate Officer).
Those who are called upon to apply condition 6(1) will no doubt take helpful practical guidance from that checklist of propositions.
Robin Hopkins @hopkinsrobin