Information Commissioner Christopher Graham
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham

The Information Commissioner’s Office has criticised the council which has been publishing the names of individual FOI requesters online for the last thee years.

The regulator (ICO) said that in most cases it would not be appropriate to publish the name of requesters alongside their request for information under the Act.

For public authorities who are wishing to publishing the names of requesters it said they should consider why it is necessary.

However it did say that if the requester is making the request in a public capacity, for example a journalist, it may be fair to disclose their name.

It encouraged those who were not happy about having their names published to speak to the ICO.

Staffordshire County Council has been publishing the names of requesters online – unredacted – as part of it’s disclosure log.

The information is still online.

It was discovered yesterday that the council has been putting the names of those making requests online since December 2011.

The council also released a list of those organisations making requests and how much it has cost them.

Before this the disclosure log, on the council’s website, did not include the names of those asking questions under the Act.

A spokesperson for the ICO said:

“Individuals who make freedom of information requests must have their details handled fairly. Many people who have made a request would not expect to have their name linked to published details of the request they have made. If a public authority is considering releasing this information then they must consider why publishing the requester’s name is necessary.“While there is a need for authorities to be transparent about the freedom of information process, in most cases this would not extend to revealing names.

“We would be concerned if authorities were releasing people’s names simply to deter requesters. However, there may be some cases where the person making the request is doing so in a public capacity, for example if they’re a local MP, or in a professional capacity, for example if they’re a journalist, and so publication of their name may well be fair.“At the very least people should be told that their details will be published and given the opportunity to explain to the council why their name should not be disclosed. If having raised it with the authority a person is not happy with the way their details have been handled then we may be able to help.”

I am a journalist and author. I am a journalist at the UK edition of WIRED magazine. In 2015, my first book Freedom of Information: A Practical Guide for UK Journalists, was published. My second book Reed Hastings: Building Netflix, was published in March 2020. I created FOI Directory in 2012 and have maintained it in my spare since ever since.