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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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My question relates to the UK Data Protection Act. I want

Resolved Question:

My question relates to the UK Data Protection Act.
I want to set up a website which contains correspondence with my local council over hotly contested house building applications. The main website audience will be local residents, but there is also a lot of press interest.
I plan to redact the names of council individuals on the outgoing mail and redact the addresses, and in some instances, the names of local residents, if necessary.
I intend to redact the name of the council officer from incoming mail. However most of this correspondence is with the Managing Director, so it seems rather pointless. Can I identify the respondent as holding title of Managing Director?
I have also written to Ministers and the local MP. The Ministerial letters could easily be printed in the Times newspaper as an open letter, so I cannot see any reason why I should not print their names in full, because technically the correspondence is in the public domain anyway. I believe that the correspondence with the local MP should be presented without redaction also, because the issues are all of a business nature and not personal.
There is a strong case to say that all the information I want to publish is in the public interest, so I do not see a problem. It is possible that the case may go to the Local Government Ombudsman, because she ruled on a similar case last week and rebuked the council concerned, not my council, and found for the complainant awarding compensation.
I feel that it is important to disclose the ongoing correspondence between residents and the council on the website, because it adds credibility and detail.
Please advise if I have interpreted the Data Protection Act correctly.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 3 years ago.

Alex Watts : Hello my name is XXXXX XXXXX I will help you with this. Please note that I am a working Solicitor and may be on and offline as I have to attend Court and meet with clients, even at weekends. As such you may not get an instant response when you reply, but rest assured I will be giving your question my immediate attention upon return You do not need to wait here as you will get an email when I reply.
Alex Watts : Do the names which will appear, do those subjects agree please?
Customer:

Yes

Alex Watts : Ok. In that case you have interpreted the Act correctly.
Alex Watts : As long as they have given consent you can disclose the details.
Alex Watts : Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?
Customer:

Sorry I misunderstood your question - I have not told the council that I intend to publish the correspondence yet. If they agree then all is well. What can I publish if they do not agree? Surely my right to free speech will cover the publishing of my letters, if I redact the names, as none of the material is confidential. Even the extraordinary events at a recent public planning committee meeting were reported in the local newspaper.

Customer:

It may be helpful if I were to send a sample copy of a letter that is probably at the most sensitive in data protection terms. If you tell me an email address I will copy it to you.

Alex Watts :

The Council can object, but as long as the document is not confidential, as long as you redact the names that will be ok.

Alex Watts :

Sadly I can not give you my email address as all needs to be via this site.

Alex Watts :

But if you intend to redact ones that do not consent then you will have no issue

Alex Watts :

Does this help?

Customer:

I have no problem redacting the names, but do I have to redact the titles also. Obviously most of the correspondence is with the Managing Director of the Council, so it is pretty pointless redacting his name because everyone knows who the MD is. Redacting his name actually draws attention to who the recipient is. I am happy for them to refuse to allow me to publish their correspondence to me because I will simply draw attention to their refusal and advise people to obtain copies through the Request For Information process. Does this make sense?

Alex Watts :

No titles can be there.

Alex Watts :

They can only refuse if it says not to be published or confidental.

Alex Watts :

Does that help?

Customer:

Let me be absolutely clear on this - If I publish my letters to the Managing Director I must redact his name and title, unless of course he agrees differently. I assume that I can leave the name of the Council on the correspondence, but can I name the developer in the correspondence, or do I have to redact that also? - I am tempted to redact these anyway because it will add to the intrigue and begin to look like a Wikileaks disclosure! As I said previously, none of the correspondence is classified as confidential and not to be published.

Alex Watts : You can name the developer yes. You can name the council yes.
Alex Watts : But your understanding is correct.
Alex Watts : Does that help?
Customer:

Alex, many thanks for your guidance. I wanted to make sure that I did not unintentionally break the Data Protection legislation. It has been a long time since I have dealt with situations of this nature and I am a little rusty.

Alex Watts : Of course.
Alex Watts : If this answers your question could I invite you leave feedback on my service which I hope has been excellent today, if you need more information or help then please click reply.Please remember that I am always happy to help if you have future questions, even if I am in Court I can normally respond within a few hours. For future information, please start them with ‘For Alex W’.Please bookmark my profile if you wish for future help: http://www.justanswer.co.uk/law/expert-alexwatts/
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