Three pieces of legislation govern an individual's general rights to request access to information held by public sector bodies: the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR).
The DPA gives individuals the right to request access to personal data relating to them. These are known as "subject access requests" or “SARs”.
Section 28 of the DPA contains certain exemptions for the safeguarding of national security, and MI5 considers on a case by case basis whether it is necessary to rely on the national security exemption.
It is possible under section 42(1) DPA to seek an assessment as to whether MI5 has complied with its DPA obligations from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), or alternatively to seek a ruling from a court under section 7(9) DPA. If the national security exemption is challenged in court proceedings, MI5 may rely on a certificate signed by the Home Secretary as conclusive proof that the exemption is required. Appeals against this certificate may be brought before the Upper Tribunal. For more information on your rights, please refer to the ICO website.
Please be aware that written correspondence posted in the UK may take up to a week to reach us.
FOIA allows members of the public to request access to information held by public authorities. MI5, along with the other security and intelligence agencies, is not subject to the Act.
For further information on FOIA please refer to the ICO website.
The Environmental Information Regulations allow the public to request access to information about the activities of public authorities which relate to the environment. MI5 is subject to the Regulations, although exemptions can be used when necessary (to protect national security for example). We will consider on a case by case basis whether an exemption applies.