Lord Clark calls for FOI review after data breaches and years of resistance

18/08/2023 | The Guardian

Lord Clark of Windermere, a leading author of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, has called for a parliamentary review of the system, which he claims is "in a weakened state owing to continued resistance from senior civil servants, many of whom still did not recognise its value to good governance," and following the recent data breaches by police forces in response to FOI requests. Clark, who designed New Labour’s 1998 proposals that laid the groundwork for the law, believes that a serious re-examination is needed to look at whether the correct balance is being struck between the need for confidentiality and openness. He also thinks that the information commissioner should be given the power to impose fines for FOI breaches.

Jon Baines, Senior Data Protection Specialist at Mischon de Reya, was also quoted in the article backing Clark’s call for a parliamentary review. Baines argued that government departments had failed to comply with their FOI obligations due to years of under-enforcement by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). He also said, “I feel there might be a bit of a perfect storm at the moment around this historic under-enforcement of FoIA, and of data breaches, in conjunction with the stated intention effectively not to issue fines to public authorities. I fear it might lead to even more downgrading [of the importance of FoI by public authorities]. But also it might lead to more sloppiness when it comes to disclosure.”

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Disclosure, Access, FOI, Data Protection, Privacy

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