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Data Protection Requests Must Be Reasonable and Proportionate


The High Court of England & Wales has dismissed an application to compel a law firm to comply with a data access request made on a variety of grounds, including that it would have required a disproportionate effort.

The majority of the large volume of documents falling within the terms of the request were likely to be subject to legal professional privilege and, as such, would have qualified for an exemption from the access request under data protection legislation. The Court found that it was not reasonable or proportionate to ask the firm of solicitors to assess which documents were privileged and which were not. The question of whether a document was protected by privilege was a matter that would require considerable work by skilled lawyers and the statutory fee of £10 bore little relation to this time-consuming and costly exercise.

The Court also noted that the purpose of data protection legislation was to protect data subjects’ right to privacy and accuracy of the information held about them but, that in this case, the real purpose of the access request was to obtain information to be used in separate proceedings which was not a valid purpose.

It will be interesting to see what potential impact this decision may have in the Irish courts when the issue of disproportionate efforts is next litigated here as this decision could potentially result in a significant departure from the current practice adopted in Ireland.

Contributed by John Farrell.

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