Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Should people be allowed to make requests anonymously?

Under the Freedom of Act 2000 a valid request requires an address for correspondence and a real name. The ICO accepts that an email address is a valid address.

The law is unfair in several respects:

  1. a person writing on behalf of a company can give the company name and not their own name.

  2. a man with a common English surname e.g. Smith can make a valid request under the name "Mr Smith" and has a much lower chance of being identified than a person with a less usual foreign name.

  3. a rich person might be able to pay a researcher or a lawyer to make the request in their name. This is perfectly legal.

I would support a change to the law so that anonymous requests had to be accepted by default with a provision to allow authorities to ask for a name to be provided where they can show they have a good reason to think a request might be vexatious.

What do you think? (please comment)

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