FOI request detail

Uber correspondence

Request ID: FOI-1430-1718
Date published: 06 October 2017

You asked

I'm writing to request copies of any internal emails sent or received by Mike Brown where Uber was mentioned during the period, 1st to 31st of May 2017.

We answered

TfL Ref: FOI-1430-1718 & FOI-1442-1718

Thank you for your request received by Transport for London (TfL) on 11 September 2017 asking for correspondence.

Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and our information access policy. I can confirm we do hold the information you require.

We have considered that the two requests submitted, requesting identical information across concurrent months, indicate that you are working in concert and so have considered them together for the purposes of this response. We are refusing your request under section 14(1) of the Act. After reviewing a sample of our records we consider that providing the requested information would place an unreasonable burden on us. Our principal duty is to provide an effective transport service for London and we consider that answering this request would represent a disproportionate effort. It would be a significant distraction from our work managing the TfL network, requiring re-allocation of already limited resources and placing an unacceptable burden on a small number of personnel. We do wish to clarify that whilst we consider that your request falls under section 14(1) of the FOI Act, this does not reflect a conclusion that it has been your intention to deliberately place an undue burden on our resources.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance states that one of the indicators of a request which may fall under section 14(1) is that it “appears to be part of a completely random approach, lacks any clear focus, or seems to have been solely designed for the purpose of ‘fishing’ for information without any idea of what might be revealed.”

The ICO guidance provides the following examples of a ‘fishing expedition’ request which may fall under section 14(1) if it:

- Imposes a burden by obliging the authority to sift through a substantial volume of information to isolate and extract the relevant details;

- Encompasses information which is only of limited value because of the wide scope of the request;

- Creates a burden by requiring the authority to spend a considerable amount of time considering any exemptions and redactions.

Our view is that all three of these examples apply in this instance. We conducted a company wide search on all emails sent to or from the Commissioner within the specified timeframe which produced 956 emails. Some work was conducted to manually review the results and remove any emails that were not internal and/or were duplicated within chains of emails. This process limited the number of individual emails caught by your request to 110, however this number does not include subsequent emails that may follow within a chain. Of those 110 emails, 103 of them contain at least one attachment which would also need to be manually reviewed.

Your request covers every instance of an email being sent or received by the Commissioner in which a single keyword is featured. By its nature, we feel this wide ranging and non-specific request will very likely encompass information which is only of limited value. In our review of the emails covered by your request, it was apparent that the majority contain attachments that include a significant volume of customer feedback via various mediums including social media. We would need to manually inspect every document in detail to ensure that all personal data has been removed in accordance with our obligations under the Data Protection Act, as well as considering whether any other exemptions might apply.

We consider the burden of retrieving, reviewing and redacting the information would be disproportionate to the benefit of providing it. Therefore, due to the wide and unfocused scope of your request, we are refusing it under s.14 of the FOI Act. If you would like to re-submit a more focused, specific request then we will, of course, consider it. For example, a request for information on a particular, specific, subject or issue contained in correspondence exchanged between named individuals over a limited period of time is less likely to raise concerns about the disproportionate effort required to answer it.

Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal.

Yours sincerely

Lee Hill

Senior FOI Case Officer

FOI Case Management Team

General Counsel

Transport for London

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