I’ve received an unsolicited email purporting to be from a legal firm claiming to represent the University of East Anglia. I’d be grateful if a lawyer with DPA experience, sympathetic to the public interest nature of the case, would get in touch here, with a view to forming a professional legal response to this communication – Thanks, TB.
We act for the University of East Anglia and attach a response to your recent blog posts about a password supplied by ‘Mr FOIA’.
<<Data Protection Act.pdf>>
for Mills & Reeve LLP
The content of the attachment is reproduced below the break. Unusually, It has no header, no signature, no indication of provenance at all. My good lady and I have already been put through the wringer once, and we don’t scare so easily anymore.
We understand from a blog post made by you on 12 March 2013 that you have either
received an unsolicited email from someone going by the name of ‘Mr FOIA’ or that this has
been forwarded to you. The email from Mr FOIA provides a password to access a
substantial number of documents. It is our understanding from the blog postings which we
have seen that the password does work and that the information can be accessed. We do
not know what information has been made available in this way but have a very real concern
that it may include ‘personal data’. This is data which, under the Data Protection Act 1998,
might enable the identification of a living individual and which is strictly regulated under the
provisions of the Act. Unlike previous releases, and from what we understand from the
publication of Mr FOIA’s email, the information appears to have been left entirely unredacted
or filtered in any way.
The information contained in these document is likely to have been illegally obtained from
the University’s servers in October 2009. The on-going dissemination of any ‘personal data’
obtained in this way would amount to a further criminal offence. Given that the sharing of
the password would enable any third party to access any of the documents there is a very
real danger that personal data will be disclosed in breach of the Data Protection Act.
The University has no desire to stifle debate around climate change but the University must
take steps where information has been obtained illegally and to protect employees and
students at the University as well as third parties from unnecessary harm arising from the
unregulated and widespread disclosure of personal data.
Accordingly, please confirm by return:
• That you will not publish the password with which you have been provided nor the
information it protects
• That you will forward a copy of this notice to any person to whom you have supplied
• That you will not publish any ‘personal data’.
If you are in doubt about what is meant by ‘personal data’ then please follow the attached
link to the Data Protection Act. Please note in particular the provisions of section 17, 21 and
Section 55 of the Data Protection Act states:
Unlawful obtaining etc. of personal data.
A person must not knowingly or recklessly, without the consent of the data controller—
obtain or disclose personal data or the information contained in personal data, or
procure the disclosure to another person of the information contained in personal data.
Subsection (1) does not apply to a person who shows—
that the obtaining, disclosing or procuring—
was necessary for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime, or
was required or authorised by or under any enactment, by any rule of law or by the order of a court,
that he acted in the reasonable belief that he had in law the right to obtain or disclose the data or information or, as the case may be, to procure the disclosure of the information to the other person,
that he acted in the reasonable belief that he would have had the consent of the data controller if the data controller had known of the obtaining, disclosing or procuring and the circumstances of it, or
that in the particular circumstances the obtaining, disclosing or procuring was justified as being in the public interest.
I personally believe that disclosure of any relevant content of the material is justified in the public interest, given the billions of pounds of public money spent on the climate scare maintained since the start of the Climategate email chain. Early in that chain, Michael Mann’s paleoclimatology work, including the infamous ‘Hockey Stick’ used to scare policy makers into great expense on the public’s behalf, is described as ‘crap’ by other scientists who nonetheless did not speak up in public to allay the fears of impending climate doom it engendered. This is just one example of why the public has a right to know what went on behind the scenes at the heart of the Climate Research Unit and within the IPCC process.
I’ll stand up for the public, because I know the public will stand up for me.