FOI: The most pointless FOI redactionever?

Redacting of information can be infuriating for people submitting Freedom of Information requests. It can also be infuriating for the bodies responsible for responding to FOIs, as time spent redacting can’t be counted towards the time limit for each request.

Until last week, the most peculiar redaction I’d ever seen was one sent to the Liverpool Daily Post from Liverpool City Council which, from memory, was several pages long and the only part not covered in black boxes was the council logo, and maybe the name of the person who sent it.

But then this one came along. It’s an exchange between Iain Duncan-Smith, the work and pensions secretary, and the residents of James Turner Street, aka Benefits Street.

For some reason, when the DWP released the information, it felt the need to blot out the name of the residents association at the top, despite leaving in the ‘aka Benefits Street‘ reference further down, and reference to the real street name in the body of the text:


o-BENEFITSSTREET-570The reply from Mr Duncan-Smith randomly removes the reference number the DWP had given the letter, along with the name of the street in the body of the letter.

Many journalists know many tricks to work out what sits behind black boxes on redacted letters, not least honing the ability to piece information together.

Protecting the identity of the residents of Britain’s most infamous street, after many of them have played up for the cameras, seems a peculiar case indeed. Especially when you leave some of the information in further down anyway! 

The FOI emerged thanks to a request by the Huffington Post. 



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