Request for CSV copy of the Teachers Register
Section 18(d) OIA did not apply—information was not publicly available in the form requested—s 9(2)(a) did not apply—not necessary to withhold publicly available information in order to protect privacy—information released
A digital technology teacher asked the Education Council for a copy of the Teachers’ Register in CSV format. He wanted to use the dataset to teach his students. The Council refused his request on the basis that the information was publicly available (section 18(d) of the Official Information Act (OIA)), and the teacher complained to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman first considered the application of section 18(d) of the OIA.
Publicly available information
Section 18(d) provides that a request may be refused if the information is or will soon be publicly available.
The Ombudsman noted that the Teachers’ Register is available online, but the information in that register is not publicly available in CSV format. Section 18(d) did not provide a proper basis for refusing to supply the requested information in the format specified.
The Council accepted it should not have refused the request on the basis that the information was publicly available, but argued that releasing a copy of the register in CSV format would be contrary to the purpose of the register, and in breach of IPP 10 under the Privacy Act 1993.
The Ombudsman explained that the OIA applied, not the Privacy Act. The Privacy Act does not limit or affect the OIA. The question was whether providing the register in the requester’s preferred format would prejudice the interests protected by section 9(2)(a) of the OIA.
Section 9(2)(a) of the OIA applies where withholding is necessary to protect the privacy of natural persons.
The Ombudsman did not consider that disclosure of the register in the requester’s preferred format would prejudice the privacy of natural persons.
Withholding was not necessary to protect privacy because the same information (name, registration number, category of certification and expiry date) was available in the publicly available register online. Withholding was also not necessary to protect teachers from unwanted contact. The information did not include contact details, and the requester did not want it for that purpose.
The Ombudsman consulted the Privacy Commissioner, who said he did not consider that providing the information in the requested format, for the educative purpose described, raised any privacy issues.
After considering the Ombudsman’s comments, the Council agreed to meet the request and the complaint was resolved.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.