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Academic Integrity: Freedom of Information

Ethics in Using Information

What is Freedom of Information?

Freedom of Information (FOI)  gives right of access to records held by public bodies e.g. Government Departments & HSE. This information can be requested if it is in the "public interest".

The Office of the Information Commissioner reviews decisions made under the Act.

The Law

Freedom of Information Act 2014  Revised Act updated to 16 December 2019

"An Act to enable members of the public to obtain access, to the greatest extent possible consistent with the public interest and the right to privacy, to information in the possession of public bodies and to enable persons to have personal information relating to them in the possession of such bodies corrected and, accordingly, to provide a right of access to records held by such bodies, ..."

Sensitive Information

Sensitive data is normally personal information about a living person. This information can be concerning their health, race, religion etc. How sensitive the information is can often depend on the context.  The main issue is making sure that the person isn't identifiable. If you refer to a 92 year old man in a small town, it is likely that everyone will know who he is.  You must take steps to ensure that the information is secure as it is no defence to say that it was an accident. See the Lindqvist case (2003)

Right to privacy?

An individual has a right to privacy which is guaranteed under Data Protection legislation. Information requested under FOI must not be sensitive or conflict with an individual's right to privacy. Information from the HSE such as "patients on trollies" must be anonymised. 

What is the process?

You must make a request in writing or by email addressed to the head of FOI of the body concerned.

  • Stating request being made under Act
  • Containing enough details to identify information required
  • Specify what kind of access is required

In general the body must give a decision within 4 weeks.

A charge may be levied to cover the search, retrieval and photocopying involved.

More Information