Public sector bodies will generally be required to disclose information even if it is stored in computer 'recycle bins', the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has said. The watchdog has issued new guidance (25-page/350KB PDF) to help public bodies which are subject to the UK freedom of information (FOI) or environmental …
If this goes ahead
There will be a number of twitching backsides I think.
"As a general rule, the Commissioner considers that information contained on a backup is not held," the ICO said. "This is because, generally, the public authority will have no intention of accessing the information on the backup. Again the Commissioner’s focus is on the intention of the public authority rather than whether the records can actually be recovered."
"There are, as always, exceptions. Where data has been lost from the main computer and the public authority intends to use the backup to restore that data, the Commissioner considers that the information is held. ..."
How about: 'The e-mails have been lost from the main computer, but we don't intend to use the backups; so we don't hold any data.'
This is what happens when lawyers get their hands on the real world.
Automated dump and erase.
For many of my clients I'll set up a program like eraser to empty and secure erase the contents of the recycle bin and the free space on the hard drive.
Here's another interesting question, can a FOI request be made on specific versions of a file where it is known the operating system keeps file versioning running.
Re: Automated dump and erase.
If they have 5 versions of the file stored, and you put in a request for all 5 versions then I would assume that they would have to comply as you are requesting something they hold?
The only circumstance where I would think there might be doubt is if you didn't specifically request all versions in which case I think they would probably just assume you only wanted the latest one. I wonder if there is any obligation for them to request clarification in this case? or if they merely need to use their judgement as to what they think you're asking for (which for 99.9% of requests will probably be the latest versions)
FOI request on version of file
why not - but how would you know of the existence of the specific version number/name in question? On the other hand there is such little disclosure of what systems the public has paid for, any department in question will just claim they're using something that doesn't do version control properly, or where documents cannot be trusted. (I believe an example of the latter is called the "manifesto").
There's some interesting stuff in the doc - if a routine procedure includes "delete anything embarrassing", that's just fine it seems, as long as it's the routine procedure.
Far too much credit
I think a lot of people who think that public bodies like Local Authorities try to be devious with information by deleting it are giving them far too much credit/intelligence. Most public bodies are in such disarray with their information that when an FoI is refused because they don't hold the info, it's very rarely a conspiracy, it's usually because their Data retention policies are a shower of shit that most staff don't even know exist. That and quite a lot of staff ignore internal policies as well.
In short to commit a conspiracy requires a degree of intelligence and we all know that is fairly lacking in Public Sector administration.
Anon, because I have to work with those non-intelligent feckers, day in and day out.
Re: Far too much credit
I recently showed one of the FOI officers at the council I work at how to OCR in Adobe.
Previously, for the last 3 years, she had printed out PDF's and then re-typed them in word as a matter of course.
If an FOI turned up here asking about versioning none of that team would have the faintest what was being asked.