Making Motorman names public

UPDATE: 7 January 2014

In the comments to this piece the requester has informed me that the ICO is appealing this decision. Given how long the Upper Tribunal takes to turn things round, I don’t think we’ll be seeing these names for some time (if at all – if the ICO succeeds). I’ll keep the original post up though for the time being


So…will we get to see the names of the Operation Motorman journalists within the next week? Or will there need to be a bit of an extra push?

I tweeted earlier today to the effect that time is nearly up for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to disclose names of some of the journalists named in the ICO “What Price Privacy” report as having engaged the services of rogue private investigator Steve Whittamore, who was convicted in 2005  under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) of offences of illegally obtaining personal data.

My blog post from earlier this month describes how the First-tier Tribunal ordered on 29 November 2013, after a rather convoluted series of hearings on the papers, that the ICO disclose within 35 days

many, but not all, of the names of journalists recorded…as clients of the investigator at the heart of Operation Motorman…together with the names of the media outlet with which [they were recorded as having been] associated at the time

By my calculations, those 35 days are up at 17:00 next Monday (see part 2.8 of Civil Procedure Rules and rule 12(1) of The Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (General Regulatory Chamber) Rules 2009). This is, of course, unless the ICO has appealed the decision, but, as at 19 December, no such appeal appeared to have been lodged.

It is possible, however – bear in mind that the Order was for disclosure within 35 days – that the information has already been disclosed to the applicant – a Mr Christopher Colenso-Dunne. If that is the case, and if the applicant chooses not to make it public, then we may not yet see those names (it has been suggested to me that the person by that name for whom Google gives a search return may not be the applicant here). The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) does not, in strict terms, oblige a public authority to make information public. Rather, it must “communicate” information to a person who has requested it (subject to the application of any exemptions). Although it is often said that disclosure under FOIA is to be taken as disclosure to the world at large, this operates as a concept, not a requirement. Some public authorities do, however, operate a “disclosure log” where some or all information disclosed under FOIA is made publicly available.

The ICO itself has a disclosure log, although it restricts this to responses “which we feel are of wider public interest”. There also appears to be a bit of lag in uploading responses (the last was one from 18 October).

One would certainly hope that, if the ICO is not appealing the decision, it will proactively disclose the information ordered to be disclosed. But, just in case, I’ve made a FOIA request for the same information, via, where it would be available for anyone to see (and which, of course, I’ll withdraw if the information becomes public in the interim).


Filed under Data Protection, Freedom of Information, Information Commissioner, Information Tribunal, journalism

3 responses to “Making Motorman names public

  1. Chris CD

    The Commissioner sought and received a seven-day extension of time, which I did not oppose. On 20 December 2013, the Commissioner made an application to the First-tier Tribunal for permission to appeal. If the ICO eventually discloses to me any of the names, and should the Commissioner decline to publish them on the ICO website, then I’ll post them.

    • Hi Chris

      Very interesting! Thanks for the message and on this basis I’ll withdraw my FOI to the ICO.

      Do you have a website? If not, and if you want, I’d be happy to host something from you in due course.

      Best wishes,

      • Chris CD

        G’day Jon

        No, I don’t have a website. Thanks for the offer. If I get anything, I’ll be glad to take it up.


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