Access to information by members of the public

Information requests

The law governing an individual’s rights to request information held by public sector bodies is found within the Data Protection Act 2018, the UK General Data Protection Regulation, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR). However, MI5 is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act or the UK General Data Protection Regulation. Data access rights which do apply to MI5 can be found within Part 4 of the Data Protection Act and the Environmental Information Regulations. 

Data Protection Act 2018 

The Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) gives individuals a right of access to personal data concerning them. Requests for access to personal data may be made to MI5 under section 94 of the DPA. Such requests are known as subject access requests or SARs. 

However, Section 110 of the DPA contains an exemption to this right of access where exemption is required for the purpose of safeguarding national security. MI5 considers on a case-by-case basis whether it is necessary to rely on the national security exemption. Where it is, a certificate signed by a Cabinet Minister, the Attorney General or the Advocate General for Scotland constitutes conclusive evidence that the exemption is required, subject to a right to appeal against the certificate in the First-tier Tribunal. 

Individuals who are dissatisfied with MI5’s response to a SAR have a right to complain to the Information Commissioner. For more information about 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. 

Environmental Information Regulations 

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. Please make any Environmental Information Regulation requests through our contact form.