The Scottish Information Commissioner - It's Public Knowledge
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Person IconAccess to personal information about other people

Q. Can I access information about other people?

A.  Personal information about someone else is  exempt from release under freedom of information law if it is protected by the Data Protection Act 1998. Authorities which hold personal information have responsibilities under this Act and may be committing an offence if they give out personal information to other people.

The definition of "personal information" is important (see below). If the information you are requesting does not fall within that definition, then the authority cannot claim the Personal Information exemption in freedom of information law as a reason to withhold it.

Even though it may be personal information, information about the work of public authority employees can sometimes be released in response to freedom of information requests. The (UK) Information Commissioner is responsible for enforcing data protection laws. His view is that information which is about the home or family life of an individual, personal finances or personal references is likely to deserve protection. By contrast, where an individual is acting in an official or work capacity, information relating to this part of a person?s life should normally be provided.  

Q.  How is "personal information" defined?

A.  Authorities can only use the personal information exemption to withhold information from you if the information you have requested is about living individuals who could be identified from that information. So, for example, if you asked for the names of people on a waiting list for a service, this information would probably be personal information. But general information about the number of people on a waiting list is unlikely to reveal information about living people who could be identified and therefore could not be withheld under the personal information exemption. It will depend on the circumstances of the case.

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