Tower Hamlets Council reports itself to Information Commissioner

TL; DR Council officers have done the right thing. Many thanks to them.

Yes, you read that correctly. In December we were sent a response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) which had a significant amount of personal data in it.

We have no interest or desire in publishing this personal data so nobody will ever see it.

The very good news is that the people at Tower Hamlets who deal with FOIs have reported the Council to the Information Commissioners Office for a breach of data privacy.

Hands up!

Yes, Council officers reported the council for a data breach.

To make this even simpler, the Council broke the rules and immediately admitted it and put their hands up.

The reason this is good is because it is professional behaviour.

While the overwhelming majority of council officers are totally professional in their approach to their work there is a small (but influential) minority who are anything but professional.

The actions of these people means that sometimes all council officers get tarred with the same brush. Unfair but understandable.

The bad officers conveniently forget they should be impartial in their work and instead do whatever their political masters tell them to do.

It will be interesting to see what defence the bad officers use if they should ever be defendants in a court of law.

A genuine honest mistake

In this particular case it was a simple mistake made by someone in the Council so the data Moley wanted was sent to us with the data we did not request and had no interest in.

It happens.

So top marks to the Council officers who realised the error and did the right thing. The people who deal with our numerous FoIs do a cracking job and we are very grateful for their work. These are the people who make the Council work, not the ones who parade before the cameras and take the glory.

And it saved Moley some work as we did not have to report the error to the ICO himself! He’s a bit busy to say the least.

If every borough politician behaved with the same level of integrity Tower Hamlets would be a much better place.

The down side being that the FoI response had an awful lot of data that we have been publishing, this was the interesting fact that the AP1 voucher system has been used to buy council properties.

AP1 property payments still a mystery

And by interesting fact we mean WTF is this? Still working on that one.

The other good thing was that we were asked, as is standard practice, do delete the file from our hard drive then empty the recycle bin to make sure it was gone.

We refused to do this. The reason is purely in case there should be a criminal enquiry into the issue of the properties bought using an AP1 when we know from previous experience that the investigating organisation (like the police) will want to have the original document we were sent, not a redacted version without the personal data. This is just standard stuff.

The Enquirer has no interest whatsoever in publishing any of the private data, it is of no use to us at all and is not in any way relevant to the main AP1 enquiry. In fact we would be more than happy to not have that data at all. But we do need to follow evidential procedure.