The Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law, 2011 applies to official information held in private email accounts (and other media formats) when held on behalf of a Scheduled Public Authority (SPA). Such information may be exempt and will not necessarily have to be disclosed.
However, it may be necessary to request relevant individuals to search private email accounts or other media in particular cases. The occasions when this will be necessary are expected to be rare.
Adherence to good records management practice should assist in managing risks associated with the use of private email accounts for SPA business. The SPA should establish procedures, including outlining the relevant factors to determine if it’s necessary to ask someone to search their private email or other media. These are likely to include:
1. The focus of the request, indicated by the applicant’s words;
2. The subject matter of the information within the scope of the request;
3. How the issues surrounding the request have been handled within the SPA;
4. Who sent and who received the information and in what capacity (e.g. civil servant or States member); and
5. Whether a private communication channel was used because no official channel was available at the time.
It’s important to keep records of all action taken. The SPA will then be able to demonstrate that appropriate searches have been made in relation to the request, if required.