The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is urging organisations not to hide behind the Data Protection Act in order to avoid compliance with data requests from individuals. This call was made during Stupid Aid Week (1-5 September), which highlighted various widely-held myths such as the belief by some organisations that data protection stops them giving out any personal information, or prevents them from dealing with certain types of enquiries.
A guide called “Overcome stupidity in the world around you”, launched during Stupid Aid Week by the Flexible Thinking Forum, listed various data protection “duck outs”. These included parents not being allowed to take photos of their child at a nativity play, teachers unable to promote the successes of pupils in the local media, and priests prevented from praying for an ill person by name during mass.
David Smith, deputy commissioner at the Information Commissioner’s Office, said:
“All too often we hear of cases where organisations have not properly thought through whether they can respond to enquiries from individuals. They have simply said no and used data protection as a duck out. The Data Protection Act does not impose a blanket ban on the release of personal information. What it does do is require a common sense approach. It should not be used as an excuse by those reluctant to take a balanced decision.”
Other myths commonly said to be part of data protection law are the following:
* The Data Protection Act stops parents from taking photos in schools;
* Under the Data Protection Act an insurance company cannot send out a claim form if it has been requested by someone other than the policyholder, such as the policyholder’s wife;
* The Data Protection Act stops parents from finding out their children’s exam results;
* The Act prevents priests from naming sick parishioners during church prayers.