This guide explains the types of information which SOAS routinely makes available about its staff, and how and to what extent staff can opt out of the publication of their details.
SOAS is subject to the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act. The Data Protection Act requires us to take care in how we manage the information which we hold about individuals, for example by handling it in ways which respect individuals' private lives. The Freedom of Information Act has created a general right of access to information held by public bodies in the interests of openness and accountability, with an expectation that public bodies will be proactive in publishing information. These Acts have implications for the information which SOAS makes available about its staff.
The Information Commissioner - the agency which regulates Freedom of Information and Data Protection - has issued guidance to help public bodies resolve potential conflicts between the legislation in the area of information about staff. Although data about the private lives of staff and sensitive personnel information would normally never be disclosed under Freedom of Information, the Commissioner's view is that public bodies should be prepared to release certain basic work-related details about their staff, and can do so without contravening the Data Protection Act. Job titles, roles and responsibilities, certain information about grades, salaries and expenses, work contact details, and decisions and actions by staff in an official or work capacity are examples of the information which can be made available in the interests of transparency. This information will normally be released if requested under the Freedom of Information Act, although there are situations where it can be legitimately withheld under an exemption in the Act: for example, if disclosing the information would place a member of staff in danger.
What we publish
Like many HEIs, SOAS routinely makes certain basic details about its staff externally available through published sources such as the SOAS Calendar, SOAS Directory and websites, in accordance with the School's Data Protection Policy. Examples of this information include name, job title, department, SOAS email address and telephone number, and the expertise, courses, research interests and publications of academic staff. The sources in which these details are published are included in SOAS's Freedom of Information Publication Scheme. Publication of this information assists the School's operations, and is part of SOAS's commitment to transparency in its activities in accordance with the Vision and Strategy for the Centennial.
How you can opt out
Staff who do not want to be included in these publications should contact the Information Compliance Manager (020 7898 4150, email to email@example.com), explaining why they want to opt out. Opt outs are not automatic: there must be a reason which would justify withholding this information if it was requested under the Freedom of Information Act. For example, health and safety concerns such as stalking, harassment or threats from a foreign government would be valid reasons for removing a staff member's details from external publications. Requests to opt out will be assessed case by case.
Opt outs are normally not permitted from sources which are only available internally within SOAS (such as the internal directory), as this would impede the School's functioning.