PL&B FOI E-news, Issue 19

1. ICO rules against Ofcom on mobile phone base stations

The Information Commissioner (ICO) has served a Decision Notice under the Environmental Information Regulations ordering Ofcom to provide all data on mobile phone base stations held within its Sitefinder database, established to assess the state of research into possible health risks from mobile phones.

Ofcom refused the original request on the grounds of national security, public safety and intellectual property rights. The ICO, however, found that Ofcom has not presented sufficient evidence to suggest there is a particular risk to the security of base stations. The Commissioner also determined that, although database rights and copyright exist, this should not prevent Ofcom from disclosing the requested information.

2. BBC not to rely on its blanket derogation

The Information Tribunal has ruled that the BBC has to reconsider a FOI requests over its Middle East coverage. The corporation had refused to release an internal report on its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, basing its decision on a derogation in the FOI Act that exempts the BBC from releasing information about its journalism.

The Tribunal says that that this derogation does not apply to the report in question because it had been used for strategic, rather than for journalistic, purposes at the time of the FOI request.
The BBC, the ICO, and the requester have to get back to the Tribunal within 20 days of the decision with suggestions on how to proceed. If the BBC has to release the report, it will have implications for hundreds of other requests that have been denied due to using the same derogation.

See the Tribunal’s decision of 29th August 2006.

3. ICO seeks feedback on FOI publication schemes

The Information Commissioner’s Office is inviting organisations and FOI users to give their views on publication schemes in order to improve consistency when public authorities submit their schemes for re-approval between June 1 – 31 December 2008.

The ICO will also organise a series of sector specific workshops to be held between January and August 2007 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The output of these workshops will be published as sector specific publication scheme guides, containing the core classes required for approval and good practice tips on dissemination, maintenance, training, promotion and review.

For further details on the Privacy Laws & Business UK Newsletter, please click here.

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