Monthly Archives: January 2012

Video: using the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Acts – Heather Brooke

Following the previous video of Heather Brooke on the Help Me Investigate blog, Heather provides further tips on using the Data Protection Act on Help Me Investigate: Health and Help Me Investigate: Welfare.

Her advice on investigating health, welfare and crime:

And on using the Data Protection Act:

Finding out information about a house

Lorna Parsons helped answer this question, posted via the Help Me Investigate site…

"If the houses are old, he might be able to obtain details from his local twentieth century society but there is no guarantee that they will hold information about who actually built the houses. If the houses are of particular historical interest then they might hold the information he is looking for.

"The title documents of the property might shed some light on it as they contain historical data about past owners, but again, it won't lead him to details of the build specification. These can be obtained for a small charge at?

"If it's more recent, he could try historical planning applications, through his local library I would guess, but again this will show the agent for the application and the owner of the land rather than the builder. However, might be useful if its a major developer (assuming that they still exist).?

"I guess that the building regulations department at the local authority might know specifics about a builder as they are the ones who have to sign off a building to say that it meets the statutory requirements. But that really is a guess – i've never tried that myself, nor do I know anyone who has."

Using FOI across borders

Wobbing Europe reports on how one journalist used Freedom of Information (FOI) laws in another country to obtain information that led to a government minister's resignation:

"During a critical phase in their reporting Dahlin and Geist asked for access from the Swedish authorities in order to find out if, and when, the Nordic ministers had informed each other on how to interpret the convention.
"?We took a chance, and got a positive cultural chock. The Swedish ministry excused for not being able to answer immediately and then returned the day after. They never asked us who we were or our purpose,? Anton Gleist, says and adds:
"?Later we found out that the Swedes were given the factual information from the Danish ministry and then passed it on to us. But the Danes only came up with an answer weeks later. It was groteque.?
"A bit later also the Norwegians and the Finns provided the Danish reporters with information they were not given at home."
"The reporters could thus demonstrate that the Danish minister had known how differently the other Nordic countries interpreted the very same convention, more than a year before she confessed to a committee at the Danish parliament."