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A national expert in data protection has supported our argument that DVLA is breaching the rights of disabled claimants, calling our analysis ‘excellent’ and adding ‘I hope the DVLA will rethink.’

Last week Benefits and Work revealed that a new vehicle check service on the DVLA website allows visitors to find out whether their neighbours are receiving the higher rate of the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) or either rate of the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP).

We believe the system is likely to be in breach of data protection laws and will be of enormous concern to many disabled claimants.

Jon Baines, is Chairman of NADPO , the National Association of Data Protection and Freedom of Information Officers. He writes and trains regularly on data protection issues and blogs at informationrightsandwrongs.com

In a post published on 6 July - DVLA, disability and personal data – he wrote:

“When I first looked at the reports that the DVLA’s Vehicle Tax Check service enabled people to see whether the registered owner of a car was disabled, I thought this might fall into the complex category of data protection issues. On reflection, I think it’s relatively straightforward.

“I adopt the excellent analysis by the benefitsandwork.co.uk site”

Baines then goes on to quote our argument that the data DVLA is publishing is not about the vehicle, but is personal data about the individual who currently owns the car or for whom the car is solely used.

He adds: “It’s difficult to argue against this, although it appears the DVLA are trying . . .”

Baines goes on to quote guidance that is supported by a Court of Appeal judgement:

“As the Information Commissioner’s guidance (commended by Moses LJ in Edem) says

“Is the data being processed, or could it easily be processed, to: learn; record; or decide something about an identifiable individual, or; as an incidental consequence of the processing, either: could you learn or record something about an identifiable individual; or could the processing have an impact on, or affect, an identifiable individual.”

Baines is in no doubt that this is the case in the example given in our original article:

“Ultimately benefitsandwork’s example (where someone was identified from this information) unavoidably shows that the information can be personal data: if someone can search the registration number of a neighbour’s car, and find out that the registered keeper is exempt from paying the road fund licence for reasons of disability, that information will be the neighbour’s personal data, and it will have been disclosed to them unfairly, and in breach of the DPA (because no condition for the disclosure in Schedule 3 exists).

“I hope the DVLA will rethink.”

We also hope that DVLA will rethink their decision to make this information available to any neighbour, relative or work colleague who wishes to obtain it.

But as they seem determined not to, you may want to pass a link to this article on to DVLA and the information commissioner’s office if you decide to make a complaint about your data rights being breached.

The link to Jon Baines’ article is:

http://informationrightsandwrongs.com/2014/07/06/dvla-disability-and-personal-data/

Comments  

+1 #19 Susan 2014-08-29 10:27
The I.C.O. have confirmed the DVLA issue is still ogoing.

So if anyone else feels the change made has not went far enough you can contact the DVLA & ICO advising them of that fact. Once again the more people that make their concern known the more notice will be taken.
+1 #18 Susan 2014-08-28 17:26
Hi Jim
Thanks for the information.

I am also of the view that the DVLA will think what they have done is enough.

I will post further once I get a response from the DVLA and I.C.O.
regards my objection that the change does not go far enough.
+1 #17 jima1 2014-08-28 12:34
Quoting michelle3434:
I have spoken to the I.C.O. and due to the very specific limited reasons as to why my vehicle would not require to be taxed I am going to continue raising my concerns by advising them I do not believe the change has went far enough so as not to identify on the open internet the possible reason I do not pay road tax.


You are right, our road tax amount is shown as £0.00.. Although this doesn't necessarily mean we are disabled, it is still indicative that we are. Previously only cars built before January 1 1973 were exempt from road tax, after the Government abandoned the previous 25-year rolling scale in 1997. However, from April 2014 any car manufactured before January 1 1974 will be entitled to a free tax disc, as do newer cars with very low CO2 emissions. Personally I cannot see why it's necessary for the tax amount to be displayed, but I think the DVLA wouldn't agree and the ICO have refused to provide me with the result of their discussions with DVLA following a FOI Act request.
+1 #16 Susan 2014-08-28 10:07
I have spoken to the I.C.O. and due to the very specific limited reasons as to why my vehicle would not require to be taxed I am going to continue raising my concerns by advising them I do not believe the change has went far enough so as not to identify on the open internet the possible reason I do not pay road tax.
+1 #15 Susan 2014-08-28 09:42
[quote name="andy@andybundy.com
Thus it may well be going away. How they will do this I have no idea - as even leaving the field blank indirectly has the same negative effect.

Just noticed at the very top of the beta page my motabilty car states vehicle excise duty rate 0.00, other IDENTICAL cars have the rate clearly stated.There are as far as I understand (I could be wrong)very limited obvious reasons for car tax exemption so is there still an issue ?
+1 #14 jima1 2014-08-27 18:30
Quoting michelle3434:
As far as I am aware DVLA have now made changes and the word disabled has been replaced with tax not due.


Hi Michelle,

As you rightly state the DVLA have now made the changes, Both my wife and I are disabled and have cars via Motability. Inputting our car registration and make of vehicle no longer displays that we are disabled.

I would like to thank members who complained to the DVLA. I believe this has persuaded the DVLA to change it's policy on this
as my Freedom of Information Act request to the ICO was refused.

Well done to all,

Jim Allison
+1 #13 Susan 2014-08-27 15:34
As far as I am aware DVLA have now made changes and the word disabled has been replaced with tax not due.
+1 #12 Susan 2014-08-21 15:11
I have also had the same refusal to my F.O.I request, and been informed by the DVLA that they are considering alternatives.

I agree that any changes will need to be well thought out by the DVLA or it will be pointless.
#11 jima1 2014-08-21 14:56
I asked the ICO to provide the result of their discussions with the DVLA using the Freedom of Information Act. They have refused to do so :

13 August 2014

Case Reference Number IRQ0548998

Dear Mr Allison

Request for Information

Further to our acknowledgement of 23 July 2014 we can now respond to your request for information dated 22 July 2014.

As you know we have dealt with your request in accordance with your ‘right to know’ under section 1(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), which entitles you to be provided with a copy of any information ‘held’ by a public authority, unless an appropriate exemption applies.

Request

In your e-mail of 18 July 2014 you asked “whether the ICO is raising the matter with DVLA about what in my opinion is a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998. Anyone is able to log on the DVLA website input a car registration number and make and discover that a person is disabled and in receipt of the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or the benefit which will eventually replace it, enhanced mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP)”.

I responded to confirm that the ICO had raised the matter with the DVLA. You then asked “Please provide me with the DVLA’s response”.

Response to request

We can confirm that we do hold the information you have requested. In considering your request the ICO is able to rely on section 31(1)(g) of the FOIA.

The exemption at section 31(1)(g) of the FOIA refers to circumstances where the disclosure of information “would, or would be likely to, prejudice – … the exercise by any public authority of its functions for any of the purposes specified in subsection (2).”

The purposes referred to in sections 31(2)(a) and (c) are –

“(a) the purpose of ascertaining whether any person has failed to comply with the law” and

“(c) the purpose of ascertaining whether circumstances which would justify regulatory action in pursuance of any enactment exist or may arise …”

Clearly, these purposes apply when the Information Commissioner is considering whether or not an organisation has breached the Data Protection Act.

However, this exemption is not absolute. When considering whether to apply it in response to a request for information, there is a ‘public interest test’. That is, we must consider whether the public interest favours withholding or disclosing the information.

In this case the public interest factors in disclosing the letter are –
increased transparency in the way in which the DVLA has responded to the ICO’s enquiries; and

increased transparency in the way in which the ICO conducts its enquiries.
The factors in withholding the letter are –


the public interest in maintaining organisations’ trust and confidence that their replies to the ICO’s enquiries will be afforded an appropriate level of confidentiality while investigating an ongoing issue;

the public interest in organisations being open and honest in their correspondence with the ICO, without fear that their comments will be made public prematurely or, as appropriate, at all; and

the public interest in maintaining the ICO’s ability to conduct investigations as it thinks fit.
These public interest factors are particularly strong while an investigation is still ongoing but may, depending on the circumstances, diminish over time once an investigation has been concluded and the ICO’s findings made known.

The ICO acknowledges that there is considerable public interest in disclosure. However, these public interests may be met by disclosure at a later stage, once an investigation has concluded and an outcome reached.

Consequently, considering all the circumstances of the case the ICO has concluded that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosure and the information is withheld.

I am sorry, therefore, that in this instance we are unable to provide you with the correspondence that you have requested.

Review Procedure

I hope this provides you with the information you require. However, if you are dissatisfied with this response and wish to request a review of our decision or make a complaint about how your request has been handled you should write to the Information Access Team at the address below or e-mailaccessicoinformation@ico.org.uk.

Your request for internal review should be submitted to us within 40 working days of receipt by you of this response. Any such request received after this time will only be considered at the discretion of the Commissioner.

If having exhausted the review process you are not content that your request or review has been dealt with correctly, you have a further right of appeal to this office in our capacity as the statutory complaint handler under the legislation. To make such an application, please write to our Customer Contact Team at the address given or visit our website if you wish to make a complaint under either the Freedom of Information Act or Environmental Information Regulations.

A copy of our review procedure can be accessed from our website here.

Yours sincerely

Ashley Duffy Lead Information Access Officer
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.
T. 01625 545625 F. 01625 524510 www.ico.org.uk
#10 Andrew Bundy 2014-08-20 14:35
I have written to both the DVLA and the ICO. The DVLA told me in the morning that they were continuing the web page with what must be a standard email as it was almost identical to that shown above. However in the afternoon I received a second email stating they were considering making changes as a consequence of the Data Protection Act.

I also heard back from the ICO who stated they were considering what action to take on the matter. I did ask for confirmation as to what this actually meant - but the reply was not terribly helpful.

Thus it appears that the problem of our personal status being available on the internet may well be going away. How they will do this I have no idea - as even leaving the field blank indirectly has the same negative effect.

Either way, even if nothing changes, the fact that pressure from B&W subscribers and newsletter readers has cleary had an effect on the DVLA who are not well known for reading anything, and that the ICO is taking an interest is a good sign (albeit a small one in the scheme of things).
#9 Susan 2014-07-30 19:14
Motability Magazine News:-How will a warden know if I am entitled to free parking?
Answer:- No standard rules announced yet. However, some councils will use visual inspection of a Blue Badge, wheras others agreed that WARDENS would check electronically with the DVLA if it is a disabled class vehicle.

Seems a proper way of working to me, and I put the word WARDENS in
capitals because it is people in positions such as this that are on a need to know basis-not nosey people who want to find out what benefits you may be claiming!
#8 Susan 2014-07-23 18:55
Just had another look at the ICO website, and the link to what they should do if they recieve a request for information.

I have very limited knowledge about the ins and outs of FOI requests however, I would have thought they had to give a reason why they do not consider a request to fall under a FOI. For example a reason such as they do not have any information to share. This seems unlikely though as they say they are aware if the issue, and in contact with the DVLA about it.
#7 jima1 2014-07-22 16:55
Not sure what's going on, but some members comments and mine seem to have disappeared. I can only assume that we have a software glitch because B & W office staff would not delete comments.

I've just had an e-mail from the ICO, which I copy below :

22 July 2014

Case Reference Number IRQ0547419

Dear Mr Allison

Thank you for the further information you provided in your email of 18 July 2014.

Having considered the matter further we have decided to deal with your request as an enquiry and not a Freedom of Information request.

I can confirm that the ICO is aware of the issues you describe and has raised them with the DVLA.

I hope this information is helpful to you.

Yours sincerely

Ashley Duffy Lead Information Access Officer
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF
T. 01625 545625 www.ico.org.uk

To make an information request please use accessicoinformation@ico.org.uk
#6 Susan 2014-07-21 10:22
Had a response to my request inder section 10 of the data protection act for the word disabled not to be used for public viewing about me.

The DVLA are standing by their view that this information does not identify me as being disabled, and say it is not covered by the data protection act. So basically it will be left open to any member of the public to view on the web that I am disabled without having to identify themselves or give a reason for wanting to know.

I use my blue badge for parking reasons in my car or that of the persondriving me
#5 Susan 2014-07-18 21:15
The public should only have information such as this on a need to know basis. If they have concerns about an untaxed car they can always make their concerns known to the DLVA,if they need to know that the vehicle is classed as disabled they should have to justify why.

I have no doubt that people can link the information on the DVLA site to that fact that whoever the keeper of the vehicle is they must be disabled, what does it matter who it is that is disabled such as a neighbour, a friend of the neighbour or a relative of a neighbour etc., they now have information of a very personal nature about an individual.
I am of course not retracting from the fact that it is very hard to deal with this when it is people staying right next to you that now know your personal information.

I have made my complaint to the DVLA,and written my concerns to the ICO. However,the fact that I have now been identified as disabled to at least four people that I know of concerns me so much. I feel so vulnerable as I am very isolated,and have no idea who else will be looking up such personal information about me and perhaps view me as an easy target for abuse of various sorts.

The ICO informed me that they are investigating the concerns people have raised however, when they brought it to my attention that it shall probably be in the media soon I felt so ill. I fully understand that things like this need to be in the media but for goodness sake can't the DVLA site at least be suspended until the final outcome of it being legal or not????

There will be many nosey people already checking to see information they have no right to be privy to,but there will be hoards more that have not clicked onto what they can do yet straight on the DVLA site once it hits the media. The damage already done to those who have already been spyed on cannot be reversed but perhaps a suspension of the DVLA site could at least mean some damage limitation.
+3 #4 jima1 2014-07-08 16:09
I have once again been in touch with the Information Commissioner
and I can assure you they have taken up this issue with DVLA.

Will post further when I'm able to give you more news, or it's reported on ICO's website.

However, I'm prepared to put an e-petition on the Downing St website, but I'd need 100,000 signatories to have it debated in Parliament.

My last e-petition to abolish PIP has only less than 2000 signatures on it. We have around three times that figure who are B & W members. See: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/61694
+3 #3 Robert Adam 2014-07-07 20:58
suzi they are really clutching at straws in the DVLA AND GOVERNMENT if thats there explanation to justify breaching an individuals data blasting DISABLED all over a vehicles data . The car is not Disabled the person(s) its used for is Disabled . My answer to the small minority of Councils that use the tax DISABLED disc and car parks to identify exemption is simply to use a bit of bloody common sense for once and issue blue badges for this purpose like many other councils . As for the APNR System in a few areas for exemption to toll roads issue a fixed hologram identifiable on the window only to an ANPR Camera . It would be lest costly aswell . To avoid all this all the DVLA has to do is make its vehicle heck system open to only registered car park buisnesses and police and councilsand those organisations with a justifiable reason to look at it . That would not suit the Government though as there using it a a camoflage site for nosey norris and nosey nora to clipe if they see an untaxed car or to report a person in there unqualified (nosey git brigade) opinion that may not be entitled to there benefits . I know an ex policewoman who has aids but looks ok another with mental health issues and another with early MS . All 3 look perfectly healthy but inside there body there are darker things killing all 3 of them . Surely they have the rights to privacy and nobody to see there taxation class on there windscreen or dla website to raise questions why there recieving such benefits . Its an absolute patheticrsponce from DVLA .Anyone with concerns over there data protection should report it to the information commisioners office online straightaway giving the details of there suspected breach of data protection . There is no use a few of us challenging this we all have to stand up and be counted . A larger scale upheavel draws more attetion than one voice . THIS CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE . THE LITTLE BLUE 3 WHEELER DISABLED CARS WERE TAKEN AWAY AS THEY DISCRIMINATED US
+1 #2 Admin Pookini 2014-07-07 20:47
came across this reply from DVLC on facebook it make little or no sense at all to me?

Dear Mrs Hartery-Brown

It may help if I explain that, The word ‘disabled’ is currently displayed on the vehicle tax disc. This is to show that the vehicle is licensed for use on the public road. The information entered onto the disc must reflect the vehicle’s current status. This information includes the registration number, the taxation class and the amount of duty paid, if applicable. This practice is mirrored for all vehicles, including those licensed in duty paying and exempt taxation classes. In addition, displaying the word ‘disabled’ on the tax disc also provides customers with a means of demonstrating entitlement to certain concessions such as parking in disabled areas and exemption from certain tolls and charges etc.

With the tax disc being abolished on 1 October 2014 DVLA received numerous ministerial correspondence, parliamentary questions and queries from local authorities asking on how would local authorities and car park operators be able to identify disabled drivers entitled to certain parking concession. To assist local authorities and car park operators with this matter and to ensure that disabled drivers continue to have access to these concessions the DVLA made enhancements to its on-line enquiry service adding the taxation status of all vehicles.

I hope this is of assistance.

Do not reply to this email. If you wish to contact us again about this response then please use our Reply Form or copy and paste the following URL in to your browser:

https://emaildvla.direct.gov.uk/.../reply_form_vehicles.html

When filling in the form the email reference number 2188364 will be required.

Regards

H Rees
DVLA Contact Centre
#1 suzi 2014-07-07 12:58
i sent e-mail to dvla 0n 3/07/2014---- today i received this reply:-

Thank you for your email received on 3/7/14.

It may help to explain that, the word ‘disabled’ is currently displayed on the vehicle tax disc. This is to show that the vehicle is licensed for use on the public road. The information entered onto the disc must reflect the vehicle’s current status. This information includes the registration number, the taxation class and the amount of duty paid, if applicable. This practice is mirrored for all vehicles, including those licensed in duty paying and exempt taxation classes. In addition, displaying the word ‘disabled’ on the tax disc also provides customers with a means of demonstrating entitlement to certain concessions such as parking in disabled areas and exemption from certain tolls and charges etc.

With the tax disc being abolished on 1 October 2014 DVLA received numerous ministerial correspondence, parliamentary questions and queries from local authorities asking on how would local authorities and car park operators be able to identify disabled drivers entitled to certain parking concession. To assist local authorities and car park operators with this matter and to ensure that disabled drivers continue to have access to these concessions the DVLA made enhancements to its on-line enquiry service adding the taxation status of all vehicles.

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