If an organisation has stored data about you in permanent form, then you have a right to see it. If you think the information is wrong, outdated or being used unfairly then you can ask to have it amended or deleted. This right to access and amend your data is known as a Subject Access Request (SAR). It is a right created by section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998 and a powerful tool to hold organisations to account…
Who can I make a subject access request to?
Every organisation must comply with subject access: This includes local authorities, businesses, banks, creditors, insurers, schools, hospitals, employers, GPs, prisons, courts, the police and the Inland Revenue. It doesn’t matter if they are large or small, privately or publicly owned; if they are processing your personal information they must supply you with a copy of it upon request.
What type of data can I ask for?
You can use Subject Access to request almost any type of data: CCTV recordings, application forms, invoices, emails, account details, personal references, employment records, medical records, police records. If it is on paper, stored in digital form or held on audio or visual media – and you can be identified from it – then you are entitled to see it. You can also ask why the data is being processed, who it is being shared with and where it originated from.
Do I have to give a reason for my request?
No. As long as you prove you are who you say you are, you don’t have to give a reason why you are requesting data. However, you will be asked to provide proof of identity. Most organisations will accept scanned copies of a passport or driving licence and a recent utility bill, but some may ask you send in your documents or bring them into their office. If you send your documents make sure you used a signed service so they are not lost in the post!
How much does it cost?
There is a £10 statutory fee payable to whomever you make the request. If you make a subject access request to a credit reference agency for your credit report, then the fee is reduced to £2, and the information must be provided within seven working days. No organisation can ask you for more than the statutory £10 limit to fulfil a SAR. If they do then they are breaking the law.
Can I ask for someone else’s data?
Subject access is a right to obtain YOUR personal data, not someone else’s. You need a person’s written permission if you are trying to obtain information on their behalf. If any of the information you request refers to someone else, the organisation can refuse to disclose it or they must blank out the other person’s data so you cannot see it. This is known as redaction. If your documents come back with blacked out or whited out sections, this will be why; not because they are hiding secret information from you but because the must not disclose any third party’s personal data!
If you genuinely think something you are entitled to see is missing from the documents sent to you, you can ask the data protection ombudsman ‘The Information Commissioner’s Office‘ (ICO) to step in.
Can I use subject access to get CCTV footage of myself?
Yes. If a CCTV camera has captured you in a public place and the images are stored, then you have a right to a copy of it. This includes cameras on train platforms, in the supermarket, the high street, pubs and clubs, inside police stations, or cameras fitted inside taxi cabs. This even includes your neighbour’s CCTV camera if it picks you up on the street!
You may be asked to provide a photo of yourself, and give a time and date of the capture, so the CCTV operator can identify your likeness easily.
Can the police refuse to disclose data under the ‘prevention or detection of crime’ exemption?
The ‘prevention or detection of crime’ exemption in the DPA (section 29) applies to the purpose of processing, not the type of organisation processing the data. The police don’t have an automatic exemption from the DPA, nobody does. The police can refuse to disclose information that may prejudice an ongoing investigation, but you can use your section 7 rights to get a copy of your criminal record, interview tapes and any comments police officers have made about you on police systems. You can get also use it to obtain pages from a police officer’s notebook if he has written something about you, as well as get the CCTV footage from a police station or custody suite. You can even get a copy of police radio traffic if they have mentioned you on the airwaves. All radio traffic and emergency calls are recorded, and all recordings fall within subject access provisions.
How long does subject access take?
Every organisation has 40 days in which to fulfil a subject access request. If they refuse to comply, withhold data or go over the time limit then you can ask the Information Commissioner’s Office to intervene. They will review your case and, if they find the organisation has not complied with the Data Protection Act, the ICO can order them to do so.
How much information will I get?
It’s not always easy to predict how many documents you will receive from a subject access request. Some people get nothing more than a slip of paper informing them that no information is held. Others might be sent huge bundles of paperwork, with audio and video recordings supplied on CD. If you don’t think you’ve got everything you asked for then you can ask the organisation to check again. However, unless you know for certain a piece of data exists, it may be very difficult to prove information is being withheld, simply by its absence.
What if I don’t like what I see?
If after reviewing all of your data, you find something that is causing – or likely to cause – damage or distress, then you can request the offending data be deleted or amended under section 10 of the DPA. If the organisation refuses, then you can bring the matter before a court and let a judge decide whether the data is being processed lawfully.
Not sure if an organisation holds any data upon you at all? Then make your request anyway.
Thinking of making a subject access request to the police? Then why not use our specially prepared forms to make your request quick and easy….
(Click to find out more or purchase the pack for immediate download right now!)
For an in depth guide on police subject access requests then download a copy of “Uncovering Your Hidden Police Data.” A comprehensive Ebook guide to subject access and Freedom of Information. It provides a detailed breakdown on how to dig out the information the police may be holding on you; where that information may be stored and the various legal processes you can use to have that information destroyed. ￼
Included FREE with this Ebook is a copy of “What Do the Police Have on You?” A comprehensive list of data types the police collect, process and store: what it means, how it is used and what it contains.