The ICO has revealed which exemptions and technical breaches of the Freedom of Information Act cause the most complaints among requesters. Responding to a FOIA request by Request Initiative, the commissioner has released two lists of Freedom of Information complaints filed to the regulator in the 2011-2012 financial year. One list is for exemptions and the other is for technical breaches.
The list of exemptions is dominated by Section 40, the exemption for personal information, which tops the list with 356 complaints (as an absolute exemption) and also appears at number three as a qualified exemption with 99 complaints. The ICO received 168 complaints about Section 43, the exemption for commercial interests, making it the second highest source of frustration for requesters.
But technical breaches under FOIA, the legal mishandling of a request, by a public body generated thousands more complaints. 1356 of these were related to Section 10, the time in which an authority has to respond, and another 1104 related to the general right of access (Section 1). 817 requesters were dissatisfied with the way their requests were refused by public bodies and complained to the ICO that their rights under Section 17 were breached. Section 12 makes the list – though the number of requesters frustrated by this exemption is surely far higher – while Section 65, the exemption for information which is contained in a historical record, also features. You can read the full list below.