Line to take - LTT71 - Addresses of properties
- FOI/EIR: FOI, EIR
- Section/Regulation: s40(2), reg 13(2)
- Issue: Addresses of properties
- Source: Information Tribunal
- Details: England / LB Bexley (10 May 2007)
- Related Lines to Take: n/a
- Related Documents: FS50072190, EA/2006/0060 & EA/2006/0066
- Contact: RM
- Date: 24/09/2007
- Policy Reference: LTT71
- © Copyright Information Commissioner's Office, re-used with permission
- Original source linked from here: LTT
Line to take
The addresses of properties owned by individuals are personal data about those individuals
In England & L B of Bexley v the Commissioner the applicant had requested a list of empty houses compiled by the council, these were both empty properties owned by public sector bodies and those owned by private individuals. The council had applied s40(2) to the addresses of properties owned by individuals.
Having heard evidence on the subject, the Tribunal was satisfied that “... knowing the address of a property makes it likely that the identity of the owner will be found.” (para 94)
The Commissioner had relied on the analysis of the Durant judgement to argue that although it may be possible to identity the owner, this did not make the address personal data. The reasons being two fold, (i) the focus of the information was the property not the owner and (ii) “even if it was possible to connect an individual to a particular empty property, this would not affect the privacy of the individual... .“ (para 95).
The Commissioner would not now stand by this position and has published new guidance on what constitutes personal data, ‘Data Protection Technical Guidance — Determining what is personal data’ which provides a wider interpretation of personal data than was originally adopted following the Durant judgement.
Obviously the council could identify the owners from the Council Tax register and the Tribunal went onto conclude that, “The address alone, in our view, also amounts to personal data because the likelihood of identification of the owner.... In our view this information amounts to personal data because it says various things about the owner. It says that they are the owner of the property and therefore have a substantial asset... . The key point is that it says something about somebody’s private life and is biographically significant.” The Tribunal went on to say that the important question was “...what meaning or meanings the data may have in the context of someone’s private life. Does the fact that Mr X owns a property potentially worth several thousand of pounds say something about Mr X? In our view it does, and the owner is the focus of that information.” (para 98)
Following this rationale it can be argued that addresses of all properties owned by individuals will be personal data, not just empty ones. However it should be noted that in some situations eg where an individual is the landlord of a rented house, the address of that property is likely to be both personal data of the landlord and the tenant.