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Employer Alert - Court of Appeal finds a person's name is personal data

The Court of Appeal has held that a person's name is personal data within the meaning of section 1(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), unless it is such a common name that without further information, such as its use in a work context, a person would remain unidentifiable despite its disclosure. The issue for the court was whether the names of three junior public authority employees amounted to personal data and, if so, whether they could be withheld under section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on the grounds that disclosure would contravene the first data protection principle of the DPA, that personal data be processed fairly and lawfully. The court established that the facts in this case differed from those in Durant and that Auld LJ's two notions in Durant were not applicable here. In this case, as the information was obviously about the individuals, it was sufficient to rely on the definition in section 1(1) of the DPA and no further assessment was needed. This is in accordance with the Information Commissioner's technical guidance on determining what is personal data. This decision lends further weight to jurisprudence that the test in Durant is limited to a particular factual scenario. (Edem v Information Commissioner and Financial Services

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