Friday, December 2, 2016


If you have a little computer time available today, and want to see what a BBC management e-mail s---storm looks like, there's an entertaining Freedom of Information release to peruse here and here.

In January this year, an enquirer asked for copies of the TV Licensing Monthly Performance pack going back three years. It took the BBC until July to get its act together; to recognise that it was data, and couldn't be entirely protected. Sadly, in performing the BBC's preferred redactions, it all went Pete Tong. Most of the data was on Excel spreadsheets, and someone tried dropping in whited-out boxes. However, in conversion to PDF, the data behind the boxes was still accessible - stuff like the number of search warrants exercised by region. Deep magic stuff for anti-licence fee campaigners.

Plaintively, in one of the tangle of cross-forwarded internal emails, there is one bit of positive action: "This incident has exposed a lack of knowledge around the safe redaction of documents and the use of Adobe redaction software. This will be incorporated into our training programme for divisional FOI reps and we will also highlight the issue in our next FOI newsletter".

Within moments of publication, the wisdom of releasing this tiny bit of apparent common sense was called into question, with another enquiry...

Please release the last 2 years issues of the FOI newsletter and the current documents, video and audio of the current FOI training program. I request this detail since this release contains the phrase 'safe redaction', which I feel could be contrary to the ICO guidance on the same. Redaction is not 'safe' for any party, it only needs to be accurately and correctly conducted.

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