September 24, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Home Office extend deadline for ORG FOI request on Intercept Modernisation

Back in August, we submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office, asking them to shed light on the Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP). Over the Summer, a number of news reports had claimed that as part of this programme a new national database would be created containing the electronic communications data of the entire population. You can read more about the IMP here.

The Home Office have now got in touch to say they are extending the 20 working day response period (which ended today) in order to consider whether our request meets the public interest test. They write:

We are considering your information request. Although the Freedom of Information Act carries a presumption in favour of disclosure, it provides exemptions which may be used to refuse to confirm whether or not we hold information, or where we do, to withhold that information in specified circumstances. Some of these exemptions are subject to a public interest test. These exemptions are known as qualified exemptions. The public interest test is used to balance the public interest in openness against the public interest in favour of applying exemptions. Section 10(3) of the Act allows us to exceed the 20 working day response target where reasonably necessary to consider the public interest test fully. This is subject to us telling applicants when we expect to conclude our deliberations and provide a full response.

We are currently assessing the public interest in saying whether or not we hold the information you have requested, and should we do so, in providing the information you have requested. We are doing so under the exemptions contained in Sections 23(5) and 24(2) (national security), 35(3) (formulation of government policy, 31(3) (prevention and detection of crime) and 43(3) (prejudice to commercial interests) of the Freedom of Information Act. This letter should not be taken as conclusive evidence that the information you have requested exists or does not exist.

Comments (5)

  1. Tony Whitmore:
    Sep 24, 2008 at 06:04 PM

    "We have to take longer to decide if it's in your interest for us to tell you whether or not we've got the information you want that. Not that we've got that information. Oh no."

  2. The Open Rights Group : Blog Archive » Intercept Modernisation: plans put on hold to allow for public consultation:
    Oct 16, 2008 at 10:45 AM

    [...] as reports suggest, GCHQ are already pilotting the programme. Our Freedom of Informaiton request - if and when the Home Office finally answer it - may shed more light on this [...]

  3. UK Intelligence chiefs want access to all communications made in the UK, « The Lift - Legal Issues in the Fight against Terrorism:
    Oct 05, 2008 at 01:24 PM

    [...] The Open Rights Group had submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office, asking them to shed light on the Intercept Modernisation Programme, but the reply was delayed because the Home Office wanted “to consider whether the request meets the public interest test”. [...]

  4. Home Office need some time to consider… « UK Liberty:
    Sep 25, 2008 at 08:53 PM

    [...] Home Office need some time to consider… Posted on September 25, 2008 by ukliberty …whether or not to confirm or deny that they hold information relating to the Interception Modernisation Programme (that lovely system that will store the details of our communications over telephone, email, and the interwebs) - see the Open Rights Group. [...]

  5. Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom:
    Sep 24, 2008 at 08:28 PM

    Sir Bonar has asked me to add

    In passing my verdict to these busybodies please inform them that it is furthermore not clear whether I myself exist or do not exist, and that my message to them to this effect should not be taken either as confirmation or as a denial of this fact or even as the existence of a confirmation or denial of my own existence.

    Please make it quite clear to them at the same time that nobody surpasses me in my commitment to Freedom of Information, for which there is undoubtedly a time and a place.