Types of information
Individuals already have the right of access to information about them ('personal data') which is held on computer, and in some paper files, under the Data Protection Act 1998. As far as public authorities are concerned, Freedom of Information will extend this right to allow access to all the types of information held, whether personal or non-personal.
This right came into effect in January 2005.
The Act does, however, set out some exemptions to this right and it also places a number of obligations on public authorities about the way in which they provide information. Subject to the exemptions anyone making a request has the right to be told whether information exists and the right to receive the information. In general, a response must be provided promptly within 20 working days.
There is also a duty on public authorities to provide advice or assistance to anyone seeking information (for example in order to explain what is readily available or to clarify what is wanted).