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0 votes

We have had a Subject Access Request which asks for, among other things, Cllr' personal eMails on a particular topic. 

The request specifies ‘all correspondence, emails, text message, WhatsApp messages and other forms of electronic communications’ and ‘Councillors’ personal email and electronic communications’ ‘communicated either to other CC members or members of the County Council’ relating to a specific organisation.

We have a eMail for every Cllr to be used for Council work. Are personal eMails included in the scope of the Act also? We do not have an official WhatsApp group for the Council. We do not use texts as an official medium of communication.

by (210 points)

6 Answers

0 votes
Firstly is the SAR what they actually want, I have had a quick look and it seems to be a request for what information you hold on somebody.
See link below

Hope this helps
by (200 points)
0 votes
A subject access request is indeed normally made when somebody wants to find out what personal data an organisation holds about them.  The standard reply should include, confirmation it is processing their personal data, a copy of that personal data and details of how that data is collected, used and disposed of.

 I made one once to a former employer and I was sent copies of documents that had sickness absence, my qualifications, notifications about birth of children, change of address, entitlements & contributions in the company pension scheme  etc.
It would appear that the person concerned is actually seeking information which falls under the freedom of information for correspondence about a specific topic in which probably their name only is simply cited. Their name could potentially appear dozens of times but in the context of an SAR you could reply that you hold their Title, surname and Christian name which have been cited in X Email messages.  Probably OK to provide a redacted copy of just one of them since just one would be all that would have been needed to get the details since the messages probably don't refer to their date of birth, ethnicity or images etc.   My advice would be to reply to the requestor and tell them that the information they seek does not appear to fall within the scope of a subject access request, and that they consider asking for the information in the form of a Freedom of Information Act request.
by (35.5k points)
edited by
0 votes
I agree with the answers to your question but do your Councillors use private emails and WhatsApp to conduct Council business ?
If not there’s no problem
by (11.7k points)
Thanks for this - this is what I was trying to find out - I obviously framed my question poorly. We all have official eMails for business and have no official WhatsApp or other groups. My feeling, therefore, was to say to the requester that, in respect of these communication methods, we do not hold any information. I just wasn't sure if they had a right to ask for personal eMails and I must ask our people to search these.
So your response to that aspect of the FOI will be personal email accounts and WhatsApp are not used for Council business
0 votes
If they are asking for a SAR (Subject Access Request) they can only ask for personal data which is held about themselves, they are not entitled to any other information especially any personal data about other people.  Check with the ICO but if you all use official emails personal emails are not covered but then it also depends if council business has been discussed on your personal emails.
If they are asking for information about a particular subject then that is an FOI (Freedom of Information) Request and then who ever responds will need to redact all personal data including email addresses.

You may need to go back to the person who requested the information to clarify what they are asking for and if it is an FOI request they will need to be very specific in what they are asking for, they cannot say any information relating to an organisation it has to be for a particular subject.
by (3.8k points)
0 votes

The ICO have issued guidance on this:

Basically if the information in private email accounts relates to official business then yes it is within the scope of FOI requests. Strictly private messages are not.

by (5.0k points)
Many thanks for this - it is very helpful.
0 votes
If you have been using your personal email for Council business then you could be drawn into a legal action and your email server and account could become part of a court order depending on what the reasoning is and if solicitors become involved and force access to your account which they can do in some circumstances. This would be as sort of seizure order and closing the account in question I am afraid does not erase the contents which can be retrieved long after. If you have created a different email just for Council business that is safer. The ideal situation is for your Council to supply a business email to you for Council business given that the Council is a legal entity in the same way a business is.
by (590 points)

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