Mass Data Purge

I  have sent this  FOI requests see below. It is about a mass data purge of information . I argue that disclosure of the data purge information would facilitate the accountability and transparency of decisions taken by officers of SDC that affect the public and would award the public a greater understanding of decisions taken and the reasons which led to the data being purged by SDC. It would shed light on the decision making process and would offer transparency to the public about what data was purged and how that decision was taken, by whom, when and where.  Also was the data purged,  data which was meant to be retained? And the disclosure is fully in the Public Interest.

Apologies for the length but it is necessary in this case.

BACKGROUND

This request is fully in the public interest. Between 2010 & 2012 a massive purge of data took place at SDC. Council Officers were allowed to choose what data to destroy. The residents of Shepway have never known why this mass purge of data took place. A growing number of people are openly discussing the mass “purge of data”, who ordered it, the reasons behind the decisions to purge the data; and whether or not it was lawful.

THE REQUEST

  • Please could I receive?
  • Dates of the data purge from – to.
  • SDC’s Data Storage maximum capacity prior to the data purge.
  • The amount of Data held in SDC’s Data storage on the last day prior to the data purge
  • The amount held after the data purge had finished?
  • Any records and datasets of what data was purged
  • The Job Title of the person responsible for the decision to start & finish the data purge?
  • The Date SDC informed the ICO of this data purge
  • The Job title of the person who informed the ICO
  • How they contacted the ICO.
  • Copies of Notes, Minutes, discussions, made during the communication – including any attachments. Names to be redacted. Job titles to be included.
  • The Action taken by the ICO
  • The legal grounds for the data purge in full.
  • How many times the CEO,Alistair Stewart has informed SDC staff to “purge your emails”

A register of information within the scope of this request. I would expect this to be a list of emails falling within the scope, regardless if the content is to be disclosed. If there is any reason to refuse my request, in part or in whole, I would ask that you justify this with reference to specific exemptions within the act. I would like to offer the following qualifications relating to possible areas of dispute within this request.

PUBLIC INTEREST ARGUMENTS

The public interest arguments in favour of maintaining an exemption must relate specifically to that exemption, but this is not necessarily the case when considering the arguments in favour of disclosure. The Information Tribunal in Hogan made this point at paragraph 60: “While the public interest considerations against disclosure are narrowly conceived, the public interest considerations in favour of disclosure are broad- ranging and operate at different levels of abstraction from the subject matter of the exemption.” Both Section 41, information provided in confidence and Section 43, commercial

confidentiality, are not likely to be engaged in the argument against disclosure. Both sections are subject to the public interest test outlined in Section 2 of the Freedom of Information Act which states that information should be disclosed whereby “in all circumstances in the case, the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.” There is a strong public interest in disclosing the information in accordance with many of the requirements outlined in the Information Commissioner’s Guidance.

I would argue that disclosure of the data purge information would facilitate the accountability and transparency of decisions taken by officers of SDC that affect the public and would award the public a greater understanding of decisions taken and the reasons which led to the data purged by SDC, It would shed light on the decision making process and would offer transparency to the public about what data was purged and how that decision was taken, by whom, when and where. And also that the data purged was not data which was meant to be retained.

There are strong legal grounds to disclose the purge of data as it is necessary to follow all requirements as laid down in the Data Protection Directive and the Data Protection Act 1998. It is necessary to inform the ICO for what purposes the purge was necessary as outlined in ICO Guidance

If information is destroyed before a request is received, a public authority can say it does not hold it but should explain why the information was destroyed and advise the applicant of any other available information.”

There is a public interest in SDC’s transparency and accountability, to promote public understanding and to safeguard democratic processes. There is a public interest in SDC decision-making, in upholding standards of integrity, in ensuring justice and fair treatment for the data held by SDC.

A further example of a potential public interest in transparency is where there is a suspicion of wrongdoing on the part of the public authority. A requester may, for instance, allege that a public authority has committed some form of wrongdoing, and that the information requested would shed light on this. For this to be considered as a factor in the public interest test,

disclosure must serve the wider public interest rather than the private interests of the requester and

the suspicion of wrongdoing must amount to more than a mere allegation; there must be a plausible basis for the suspicion, even if it is not actually proven. 33. A number of sources may suggest whether a plausible basis exists:

The facts may suggest that the basis for an authority’s actions is unclear or open to question.

The case of Mersey Tunnel Users’ Association v Information Commissioner and Merseytravel (EA/2007/0052, 15 February 2008), is an example of this

The Information Tribunal in this case said at paragraph 46 “legitimate and serious questions can readily be asked about both the power to make the payments and the obligation to do so”

Even if wrongdoing is not an issue, there is a public interest in fully understanding the reasons for public authorities’ decisions, to remove any suspicion of manipulating the facts, or ‘spin’.

I do not see that the Data Purge Information requested under the FOIA is technical or complex. It is not usually in itself an argument for maintaining exemptions. The obvious solution is for the authority to publish an explanation of the information, rather than withhold it.

SDC cannot nor should argue that the data purge information would be misleading, perhaps because it consists of notes reflecting only part of a discussion or because it may be inaccurate or out of date. FOIA provides a right to information that public authorities hold; it does not require that information to be complete, accurate or up to date.

See (EA/2008/0027, 15 August 2008) at paragraph 15 that:

… if the records are faulty or inadequate and the information turns out therefore to be inaccurate that is irrelevant: the right under the Act is to I nformation which is held, not information which is accurate.

The data purge information requested is simple and concise. Releasing it will free SDC from manipulation of the facts and spin.

AGE OF INFORMATION

The age of the data purge information is several years old Generally speaking, the public interest in maintaining an exemption will diminish over time, as the issue the information relates to becomes less topical or sensitive and the likelihood or severity of the prejudice diminishes. FOIA recognises the effect of the passage of time – under section 63 (as amended) some exemptions cease to apply altogether after a certain number of years, when the information becomes a ‘historical record’. I argue as the datqa purge information is several years old it is a ‘historical record’, and so no exemption longer applies.

See: (EA/2007/0052, 15 February 2008) at paragraph 51:

“Weighed in the round, and considering all the aspects discussed above, we are not persuaded that the public interest in maintaining the exemption is as weighty as in the other cases considered by the Tribunal; and in the opposing scales, the factors that favour disclosure are not just equally weighty, they are heavier.”

In short transparency tipped the scales as it would in disclosing the data purge between 2010 and 2012. Therefore I request you release the data purge information.

Responding to this request

If you feel that a response to this request is not possible within the limits provided by the Act I would be grateful if you could contact me by telephone or email and advise me as to how I could refine the request as you have a duty under s16 of the Act.

If you are unable to release certain records because the requested information is caught by one or more exemptions, please provide a register of all information in the scope of the request,including that which is being withheld. Please provide the date and description of each record and indicate which exemption is cited to withhold it from disclosure.

I would also be grateful if you could release as much information as possible and provide documents in their original context (rather than digested extracts). Where exemptions apply please annotate the redactions in the document and state which specific section the information is being withheld under.

I would like to receive all correspondence and information in an electronic format, but can be contacted on 01303 ****and at XXXX@XXX.X

Finally, please confirm that you have received this request.

I look forward to your response within 20 working days, as outlined by the statute.

Your Faithfully

Shepway Vox

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1 Comment on Mass Data Purge

  1. David Baker // August 18, 2015 at 13:47 // Reply

    Now this must raise eyebrows?
    when I was County Member for New Romney, I requested under the FOI act the names of the SDC members who went on a trip from Lydd Airport to Le Touquet airport when Mr Zaheer Dier was manager to my knowledge this was prior to the planning application being passed.
    Surprise! Surprise! The reply that I received from SDC on the 15th October 2014 was to say that “We do not hold any information in response to your request”.
    They did not explain that it could have been UNITENTIALLY destroyed!!!!!!
    David Baker

    Like

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