Metropolitan Police reject our FOIA request using a pseudonym via


Annoyingly, the Metropolitan Police appear to have taken up the new Guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office, (See ICO Guidance on FOIA requests name and address for correspondence - another attack on Anonymity) with bureaucratic glee, and have rejected our FOIA request for the breakdown of some statistics , simply because of our use of a pseudonym, on the FOIA request submission portal website.

Operation Maxim - breakdown of statistics of United Kingdom versus Foreign passports seized

This, in our view misinterprets the Freedom of Information Act requirement for a "name and address for correspondence".

Since they accept, an email address as the correspondence address, then so should they accept a pseudonym, rather than your "real" name.

The only reason for this name is to help deliver the FOIA disclosure to the requestor. Using a pseudonym obviously does not involve the "asking for personal information about yourself" exemption, and it makes to difference to determining whether a request is repeated or vexatious.

Public Bodies are not allowed to demand to know why any particular bit of information is being requested under the FOIA, so the identity of whoever is making the request is irrelevant.

Remember that publishes the full text of the correspondence (with a few exceptions which are starting to creep in now), so if anybody did sign their real name and address, it is available to search engines, identity thieves, private investigators, future employers, and secret policemen etc.

By insisting on a "real name", for no good reason involved in the actual delivery of the information to be disclosed, this probably infringes on our ECHR Article 8 right to privacy of our communications and family life, but that will probably take over 5 years to establish through the Court system.

The Met Police rejection:

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

26 January 2009

Dear Watching Them Watching Us

Freedom of Information Request Reference No:2009010006013

I write in connection with your request for information which was received by Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 26/01/2009.


I have decided to refuse access to the information you have requested under the provisions of Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act).


Section 8 of the Act provides:

(1) In this Act any reference to a "request for information" is a reference to such a request which-

(a) is in writing,
(b) states the name of the applicant and an address for correspondence,
(c) describes the information requested.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1)(a), a request is to be treated as made in writing where the text of the request-

(a) is transmitted by electronic means,
(b) is received in legible form, and
(c) is capable of being used for subsequent reference.

I am not required to process your request without information that can later be referred to, as per Section 8 (1)(b). The information we require is your name.

To enable us to meet your request could you please resubmit your application in accordance with the above requirements. If for any reason you are unable to do so, please contact me for assistance or seek assistance from any other available source.

We will consider your resubmitted request upon receipt as long as it meets the requirements stated above. You will receive the information requested within the statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined by the Act, subject to the information not being exempt.


If you are dissatisfied with this response please read the attached paper entitled Complaint Rights which explains how to make a complaint.

Should you have any further enquiries concerning this matter, please contact me at the email address at the top of this letter, quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely

Emma Linney
Support Officer


Are you unhappy with how your request has been handled or do you think the decision is incorrect?

You have the right to require the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to review their decision.

Prior to lodging a formal complaint you are welcome and encouraged to discuss the decision with the case officer that dealt with your request.

Ask to have the decision looked at again -

The quickest and easiest way to have the decision looked at again is to telephone the case officer that is nominated at the end of your decision

That person will be able to discuss the decision, explain any issues and assist with any problems.


If you are dissatisfied with the handling procedures or the decision of the MPS made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) regarding access to information you can lodge a complaint with the MPS to have the decision reviewed.

Complaints should be made in writing and addressed to:

FOI Complaint
Public Access Office
PO Box 57192

In all possible circumstances the MPS will aim to respond to your complaint within 40 working days.

The Information Commissioner

After lodging a complaint with the MPS if you are still dissatisfied with the decision you may make application to the Information Commissioner for a decision on whether the request for information has been dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the Act.

For information on how to make application to the Information Commissioner please visit their website at
Alternatively, phone or write to:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Phone: 01625 545 700


We have submitted a request for an Internal Review:

There is no excuse for demanding that the request for an Internal Review should be made by snail mail letter, when they have managed to receive a request and send a reply via email.

Will the MPS see sense and be open and transparent, or will they waste Police time and public money in trying to suppress this information ?

Watching Them, Watching Us

19 February 2009

FAO: Emma Linney

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

19th February 2009

Dear Sirs,

Internal Review request: Freedom of Information Request Reference

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, please conduct an
Internal Review of your decision not to disclose the information I
requested, namely a UK versus Foreign breakdown of some published
statistical totals of forged or falsely obtained identity documents
which have been seized under Operation Maxim.

For reference please see the FOIA request portal

Yours sincerely,

Watching Them, Watching Us

The Met police are quite right.

The public should be entitled to know how their taxes are spent, and who is costing them money. Every FOI request incurs a cost. I as a taxpayer want to know who is costing me money - who is imposing a burden on our public services in order to run their own campaigns pressure groups etc.

@ Alfred Swales - the Met Police are wrong.

FOIA requests are not "a burden on our public services", due to the large number of Exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

There is a specific exemption for "vexatious requests", so if there ever are any repeated, time wasting requests, these can be rejected at no cost to the taxpayer.

There are guidelines for the amount of budget / manpower / time beyond which a public body is allowed to start asking for a fee to cover their costs e.g. photocopying or video duplication costs etc., so again, there is no real "burden" on the taxpayer, and it is easy to estimate the cost of "free" FOIA requests, from the number submitted annually. The current limit set by the Met Police is up to 18 staff hours or £450 per FOIA request. The vast majority of request will not take anything like this amount of time or money to fulfill e.g. the Rejected Request above for a slightly more detailed breakdown of some already published and summarised crime statistics, should take no more than an hour or two at most.

The Metropolitan Police Service could pay for all the FOIA requests they receive in a year, by not engaging in as many publicity stunts, like the attempted arrest of a burglar, reported yesterday, which involved 80 Police officers, a police helicopter, and the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner and a gaggle of tame reporters. This turned out to be a waste of public money, as the suspected villain had already been arrested a few hours earlier and was being booked in Kingston Police station at the time of the dawn raid on his home.

If, you, as a taxpayer wanted some more details about the costs of this sort of fiasco, you would have to attempt a Freedom of Information Act request. Would you be happy for the MPS to publish your Name and Home Address on their website, if / when they correspond with you to disclose, or to deny you, the information you requested ?

One of the objections to the anti-pseudonymous name interpretation of the Act, is that it makes it impossible to use the FOIA request portal, if you are a private citizen, without a corporate or organisational intermediary name and address to hide behind, without your Real Name and Address being published on the internet, for every search engine to find and remember for the rest of your life.

Professional journalists and Campaign groups and corporate lawyers and market researchers are not bothered by this, but private citizens are, especially those who legitimately have "something to hide", or who fear harassment, and whose Real Name and Address for Correspondence has no relevance to any FOIA request specific misdeeds.

This new policy policy of now starting to automatically reject FOIA with pseudonymous Names, something which they were happy to accept for the past 4 years, makes the Metropolitan Police look to be secretive and to have something to hide, flouting the spirit of transparency which they claim to uphold under the FOIA, even when, as with this particular request, it is hard to imagine what they have to conceal about some slightly more detailed published crime statistics.

Even the MPS and the ICO accept that a pseudonymous Email Address, satisfies the legal requirements for an "address for correspondence" purposes.

wtwu - you argue with all the conviction of a fanatic.

I work in a hopital and know that FOI requests are a burden. You are a liar to pretend otherwise.

You're quoting MPs! The people who passed the Act and thought it didn't apply to them!

At the least they could have provided funding for complying with the act they didn't and every request takes people away from their main job for some time.

Maybe the Metropolitan Police have something to hide, maybe they are jsut fed up throwing money away.

See,s to me the people using pseudonyms are like the G2 protesters in their balaclavas out to make trouble. The genuine protesters with nothing to hide don't cover their faces,

@ Pete

I work in a hopital and know that FOI requests are a burden. You are a liar to pretend otherwise.

Nobody is pretending that FOI requests do not involve some effort on the part of public bodies, However the presumption in law is that all information held by a public body should be transparent and should be published, unless one or more of the numerous exemptions and exceptions applies. You have a legal right to see this information.

If you work anywhere near medical records, then you should be fully aware of the damage which poorly anonymised data can inflict on innocent people if it is made public or is shared or cross referenced with other systems inappropriately. This is especially true of people with unusually spelled surnames.

At the least they could have provided funding for complying with the act they didn't and every request takes people away from their main job for some time.

Read the FOI Act again, and take note of the bit in my FOIA requests which asks for an estimate of any costs likely to be charged up front.

Public Bodies are allowed to cover the financial costs of complying with FOIA requests, so there is no question of them "throwing money away."

See,s to me the people using pseudonyms are like the G2 protesters in their balaclavas out to make trouble. The genuine protesters with nothing to hide don't cover their faces,

There was also a shameful minority of Police officers who broke their standing orders by deliberately removing, hiding or faking their Police badge identification numbers and rank insignia on their uniforms, which they are required to display in public, so that they can refuse to give their real names when challenged or questioned by the public, who might wish to complain about them.

If you are so unhappy with pseudonyms, then why have you not posted your full name here on this blog comment ?

Presumably for precisely the common sense reasons of:

  • Google and other search engine data persistence into the foreseeable future
  • potential harassment or stalking
  • not wishing to potentially damage the reputation of your employer or friends and family.etc.
  • future employment background checks etc.

i.e. exactly the same reasons for not automatically publishing it on the WhatDoTheyKnow.cOm website as part of an FOIA request.

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This United Kingdom based blog has been spawned from Spy Blog, and is meant to provide a place to track our Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to United Kingdom Government and other Public Authorities.

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