Decision: The recent case of Dawson-Damer v Taylor Wessing & Others  EWHC2366 provides useful guidance on responding to Data Subject Access Requests (“SARs”) and particularly the use of “disproportionate effort” as a reason not to respond. In this case, the SAR was against a firm of solicitors, Taylor Wessing, who refused to provide more than limited information in response claiming that most of the personal data sought was subject to legal professional privilege and therefore exempt from disclosure. (paragraph 10, schedule 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998, “DPA”) and that, in any event, establishing whether data was privileged would involve disproportionate effort on Taylor Wessing’s part. Section 8(2) of the DPA permits recipients of SARs not to provide copies of the requested information if it would involve disproportion- ate effort.
The High Court held that to establish whether the personal data (which went back 30 years) was covered by legal professional privilege would require skilled lawyers to review the information. Taylor Wessing was therefore not required to provide the information due to the disproportionate effort it would have required on the part of Taylor Wessing. The High Court does have a discretion to order compliance with a SAR. However, here the Court said (on an obiter basis) that the only reason the Claimants had made the SAR request was to get information for them to use in other court proceedings and it would not order compliance with the SAR for this.
Impact: This case provides helpful guidance from the High Court as to use of disproportionate effort. It also reinforces the finding in the Durant Case (Durant v Financial Services Authority  EWCA Civ 1746), that the purpose of a SAR is for somebody to check that there has been no infringe- ment of their privacy in relation to their personal data. It is not to assist them in pursuing litigation against third parties. However, bear in mind that this is a High Court decision and not one which has been supported by theInformation Commissioner who believes that such decisions do not impact on the legal duties of employers (and other entities) to comply with a SAR.