The Freedom of Information Act v Data Protection Act

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018) are both useful tools for accessing data when needed. Below, we explore the differences between the two.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000

In very simple terms, the FOIA provides the public with access to information held by a public authority. Public authorities include Government departments, local authorities, NHS, Police forces, etc.

A FOIA request gives you access to any recorded information held by the public authority, including but not limited to printed documents, electronic documents, letters, emails, etc. It is, however, important to note that the FOIA only gives you access to the data held by the public authority in respect of the activities and other internal documents.

The FOIA does not give you access to any personal data, such as health records, criminal records, etc. If you are wanting to access personal data you are going to need to make a Subject Access Request, in accordance with the DPA 2018.

Anyone can make a request under the FOIA. You do not even need to be a UK citizen or resident in the UK. FOIA requests are also not restricted to individuals, meaning an organisation can make a request.

A request made under FOIA should be directed to the public authority in question. They are then responsible for responding to the request.

Data Protection Act 2018

The DPA and GDPR give a data subject the right to access their personal data. You can do this by making what is known as a Subject Access Request, for more information on Subject Access Requests, have a look at our previous blog.

If you are wanting to ascertain what, if any, personal information an organisation holds about you (and obtain a copy of such data) you need to do a Subject Access Request rather than a FOIA request.

freedom information data protection actHow can Nelsons help?

Ruby Ashby is an Associate in our expert Dispute Resolution team.

Should you wish to discuss any data protection issues affecting you or your organisation, please do not hesitate to contact Ruby or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online enquiry form.