3rd September 2014
For those who don’t know me, I am, amongst other things, a freedom of information campaigner. My reason for doing this is simple: well-justified disgust at what seems to be a growing number of power abusing, wayward public bodies, stuffed to the gills with senior level wasters and chancers.
They do exist by the way. Take it from me. I’ve met, mingled and worked with these weird, strangely motivated people, until my luck eventually ran out one day in 2003 – and then again in 2009.
My ‘problem’, from their point of view, was I was ‘not marching in step with the rest of the team’.
Which is completely true. And how unusually perceptive of both employers to arrive separately at this conclusion.
I have what’s regarded as a burden: an unusually strong sense of injustice. This, coupled with a tendency to open my mouth and make my feelings known, caused me to receive the wrong kind of attention, and ultimately to lose my job at two local councils.
I’m not saying I’m without fault and completely above criticism. I was a salary / perks / annual holidays slave for 7 years at Wirral Council, and spent 5 long years prostituting myself at Cheshire West and Chester Council – before I finally saw the light. Unlike most workers though, who plough on regardless without blinking an eye, or who quickly adjust their stride and make a career out of ‘marching in step with the rest of the team’ i.e. abusing, I am not capable of remaining silent or joining in.
Sorry about that.
I’m not condemning all public bodies globally; by no means, but when crooked public servants start flexing their muscles, thieving, lying, abusing their power, empire building, or going the whole hog and making their employees’ or service users’ lives an absolute misery, and then when the heat rises, denying it all and covering up, I will speak up and expose them.
So, because I’m no longer working full time (I’m completely unemployable now), I write very boring emails to the perpetrators. It’s what a lot of British people do these days in this ultra-restrained society of ours. Instead of screaming, “TO HELL WITH IT !!!”, uprooting our lives, arming our families with pitchforks, stripping off, painting our bodies with warpaint and taking to the streets in search of blood and vengeance… we sit for long periods in front of a keyboard, tapping away.
I wrote and sent one of my tedious emails to Wirral Borough Council on 17th April 2013:
The upshot was the council branded my request ‘vexatious’, and said I’d accused them of lying – ha!
Prior to this, they’d accused me of being ‘obsessive’. A request can’t be obsessive, but a person can, at least in the minds of WBC’s “team” of highly-qualified solicitors. So they again smeared me publicly, shut up shop and held on grimly to the public’s information…
They’d done this twice before on earlier requests, and as it turned out, I overturned them both times. They quickly scuttled away, licking their wounds, hoping against hope that this final one would come good and they could finally land a blow against snitches, busybodies and do-gooders (like me) with our mendacious meddling, our vile vexatiousness and our ‘orrible obsessions.
But the council’s monitoring officer let the side down, flattered to deceive once again, and his carefully choreographed campaign of vexation fell to pieces all around him, including the ‘I’d branded them liars’ nonsense.
The ICO loses the plot
A few months back, I’d asked a caseworker at the ICO to draw up a Decision Notice on this long-running “vexatious” case, which would hopefully set out the detail and chart the progress made during its 17 month existence. I’d been waiting for some time, and at long last, something arrived from them today.
An A4 white envelope dropped onto the doormat. It was addressed to me.
An A4 cover page summarised the contents of the envelope. It too was addressed to me.
7 x A4 pages then nestled in my hand (the Decision Notice itself). This was not addressed to me.
So, there we have it. Would readers agree that an ICO Decision Notice (a legal document) that contained somebody else’s full address would be ‘confidential data’, and that because I was now viewing it, I would not be authorised to do so?
Would readers also agree that it was an unknown ICO employee who had unintentionally sent me another requester’s address, and had breached the very rules that the ICO is there to enforce?
Perhaps readers will conclude that the regulator of the nation’s data had committed its very own data breach?
Statutory Law applies to all, and even when the offending organisation is the ICO, certain procedures have to be followed in the event of any data breach.
So I’ve now taken steps (within 24 hours, as required) to put the situation right. I’ve filled in and submitted the following form, attached it to an email and sent it to the ICO:
From: Paul C Sent: 04 September 2014 12:14 To: ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ Subject: FS50516384
FAO [caseworker name redacted]
Dear [caseworker name redacted],
There has been what looks like an unintentional security / data breach, which I discovered yesterday afternoon (3rd September 2014).
Please find a copy of your ‘raising a concern’ form attached,
ICO “Raising a Concern” form
5th September 2014
The ICO were quick to respond. Here’s an email, received today:
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: 05 September 2014 14:07 To: Paul C Subject: Acknowledgement (ICO Case FS50516384)[Ref. FS50516384]
5 September 2014
Case Reference Number FS50516384
Dear Mr Cardin Thank you for raising this issue with me. I have referred your letter to the relevant team for investigation, and have advised them that you have requested a response within 28 calendar days.
Yours sincerely (Case officer name redacted) Case Officer, Information Commissioner’s Office Direct Dial: 01625- etc.
To which I replied:
From: Paul C Sent: 05 September 2014 15:02 To: ‘email@example.com’ Subject: RE: Acknowledgement (ICO Case FS50516384)[Ref. FS50516384]
Dear [Case officer name redacted],
You’re being a little vague here. Who are ‘the relevant team’ please?
And he came back with:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: 05 September 2014 16:30 To: Paul C Subject: ICO FS50516384[Ref. FS50516384]
5 September 2014
Case Reference Number FS50516384
Dear Mr Cardin
I’ve referred it to my Group Manager, Mr White in the first instance, but there is a team that prepare and dispatch the Decision Notices, and I understand it is that team that will be investigating what has happened. Hope that makes more sense, I’m away next week on leave – but you should hear shortly from that team.
Yours sincerely [Case officer name redacted] Case Officer, Information Commissioner’s Office Direct Dial: 01625- etc.
Ah, so the people who cocked-up appear to be the “team” to do the investigating. That’s reassuring.
Good to see that the ICO also employ “teams”, just like Wirral Council – they’re absolutely slewing with the bastards.
Hopefully, they’re all ‘marching in step with each other’. This has not been easy, so I’m pretty sure they will be…
I’ve decided to print a copy of my fellow FoI requester, [name redacted]’s 7 page decision notice.
Here’s a plain language version of it. But I’ve been forced to redact it, Wirral Council style: