What is the right of access?

The right of access, commonly referred to as subject access, gives individuals the right to obtain a copy of their personal data as well as other supplementary information. It helps individuals to understand how and why you are using their data, and check you are doing it lawfully.

How do we recognise a request?

A request does not have to include the phrase ‘subject access request’ or Article 15 of the GDPR, as long as it is clear that the individual is asking for their own personal data.

This presents a challenge as any of your employees could receive a valid request. However, you have a legal responsibility to identify that an individual has made a request to you and handle it accordingly. Therefore you may need to consider which of your staff who regularly interact with individuals may need specific training to identify a request.

Additionally, it is good practice to have a policy for recording details of the requests you receive, particularly those made by telephone or in person. You may wish to check with the requester that you have understood their request, as this can help avoid later disputes about how you have interpreted the request. We also recommend that you keep a log of verbal requests.

What is an individual entitled to?                  

Individuals have the right to obtain the following from you:

  • confirmation that you are processing their personal data;
  • a copy of their personal data; and
  • other supplementary information – this largely corresponds to the information that you should provide in a privacy notice

Personal data of the individual

An individual is only entitled to their own personal data, and not to information relating to other people (unless the information is also about them or they are acting on behalf of someone). Therefore, it is important that you establish whether the information requested falls within the definition of personal data.

Other information

In addition to a copy of their personal data, you also have to provide individuals with the following information:

  • the purposes of your processing;
  • the categories of personal data concerned;
  • the recipients or categories of recipient you disclose the personal data to;
  • your retention period for storing the personal data or, where this is not possible, your criteria for determining how long you will store it;
  • the existence of their right to request rectification, erasure or restriction or to object to such processing;
  • the right to lodge a complaint with the ICO or another supervisory authority;
  • information about the source of the data, where it was not obtained directly from the individual;
  • the existence of automated decision-making (including profiling); and
  • the safeguards you provide if you transfer personal data to a third country or international organisation.

You may be providing much of this information already in your privacy notice.