The ICO has issued new guidelines to help determine if information is held and therefore available on request. It is important that you read this document, the ICO guidelines and then seriously consider implementing the procedures outlined because it will save you a lot of time, effort and heartache in the future.
The important section in these new guidelines is covered by paragraphs 28 to 36 on pages 12, 13 and 14 which, in essence, state:
1. Public authorities are entitled to delete information they no longer require, and indeed they should do so in accordance with good records management practice.
2. Information that resides in a “Recycle Bin” is considered to be held and therefore available if requested.
3. Information that is stored on a “Backup Drive” but has been deleted on the computer is considered to be not held.
The ICO considers information stored on an external hard drive to be in place for disaster recovery purposes and requiring a trained person or external specialist to access the data in the event of such an emergency.
In order to take full advantage of these new guidelines and severely reduce the quantity of information that can be requested I recommend that you implement the following procedures:
1. Set up an external backup drive to your computer with the appropriate software which will automatically copy, at then end of each day, your files and email correspondence from your computer to the backup drive.
2. Delete all information as soon as possible after the matter has been dealt with and use Shift+Delete to remove unwanted information as this bypasses the Recycle Bin.
3. When you reply to an email ensure your software copies the received email into your reply and then delete the received email after your reply has been sent.
4. Ensure you empty your email “Deleted” folder at the start of each day
5. Keep your Freedom of Information Act Inventory up-to-date and store as much council documentation, policies, procedures, reports etc. on your website. If the information requested is available on the website you do not need to provide hard copies.
If you implement these procedures you will drastically reduce the information held on your computer which will improve the performance of the computer and the information that is held and therefore available.
Information held on your backup drive is only considered, by the ICO, to be not held if that information has been intentionally deleted from your computer.