Privacy Commissioner’s Office – Complaint Case Notes
Complaint regarding data access request
The complainant was a former civil servant. He had served in a government department for more than 10 years and was then transferred to another department on a different post on probation terms for two years. However his performance during the probation period was considered unsatisfactory and his service was subsequently terminated. He made a data access request to the department seeking access to his personnel file held by the department. In complying with the request, the department provided over 400 pages of documents to the complainant with certain information edited out from the copies of the documents on grounds that the edited data were matters of departmental policy that should not amount to personal data of the complainant.
Section 20(2)(b) of the PD(P)O provides that a data user may, in complying with a data access request, edit out data of third party individuals from the requested data either by the omission of names or other identifying particulars. However, on closer examination of the documents provided to the complainant, it was ascertained that they were ‘file minutes’ relating to discussions regarding the complainant’s eligibility for pension benefits. These discussions were specific matters of policy applicable to the complainant’s case, i.e. termination of service. In these circumstances, the contents of the “file minutes” contained personal data of the complainant and should have been disclosed to the complainant in complying with his data access request.