Deal With a Data Subject Access Request (DSAR)

Under UK GDPR, data subjects have a right of access, which means they have a right to obtain a copy of their personal and other supplementary information.  A DSAR is thus a request made by a data subject or someone on their behalf, for example a solicitor to a business (usually by e-mail but it can be phone or social media) requesting their personal data or part of it which is held by the business. The request will be valid if it's clear that the individual or person on their behalf is requesting the individual’s own personal data. The DSAR doesn’t need to refer to specific legislation or use specific key words to be valid.  

For many businesses, receiving a data subject access request (DSAR) is’ the most thrilling prospect. However, in responding to DSARs it’s important businesses fully comply with UK data protection law.

What should I do if I receive a DSAR?  

If your business receives a DSAR, then subject to the exemption outlined below (see Can we refuse to comply with a DSAR?) the business must comply with the DSAR without undue delay and at the latest within one month of receiving the request. Your business can extend the time to respond by a further two months if the request is complex or you have received a number of requests from the individual, e.g. other types of requests relating to individuals’ rights.

To respond to the request, you can request ID so that the business is satisfied of the individual’s identity. The timeline for responding does not begin until requested ID is provided, but the business should still request it promptly. Reasonable efforts should be made to find and retrieve the personal data requested. However, it doesn’t have to conduct searches that would be unreasonable or disproportionate to the importance of providing access to the information.  

Often, an individual’s personal data is combined with the personal data of others (an e-mail chain referring to several individuals). Where that is the case, you do not have to comply with the DSAR to provide the requested personal data unless you have consent from other relevant individuals to disclose their personal data as well or it is reasonable for the business to comply without those other individuals’ consent.  

When deciding in what format to provide the requested personal data, the business should consider both the circumstances of the particular request and whether the requesting individual has the ability to access the data you provide in that format. It is good practice to establish the individual’s preferred format prior to fulfilling their request.  

Can I charge a fee for complying with a DSAR?  

You can charge a ‘reasonable fee’ for the administrative costs of complying with a request if it is manifestly unfounded or excessive, or if an individual requests further copies of their data.  

Can I refuse to comply with a DSAR?  

Yes, in some circumstances there are exemptions that apply and depending on which applies, you may be able to refuse to provide some or all of the requested personal data. You can also refuse to comply with a DSAR which is manifestly unfounded or manifestly excessive.  

How can we help?  

We can advise in all matters related to DSARs including if you must respond, when to respond, how to respond and in what way to respond depending on the specific circumstances.

Want to speak with one of our experienced data protection lawyers? Get in touch with the team.  

How to get started

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