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How to make a Subject Access Request


How do you make a Subject Access Request? Just take around a minute out of your day to stop and think about all the times you give out personal data. The list is practically endless: using loyalty cards at supermarkets, booking flights, online banking, entering competitions, and last but not least, setting up an Amazon account. And let’s face it, companies are pretty nosey these days, asking us everything from our age, sex, date of birth, address ad infinitum.

Several years ago governments began to realise that consumers need a certain level of control over this data exodus. Enter centre stage left, the Subject Access Request (SAR).

What is a Subject Access Request?

Put simply, an SAR is a means by which you can ask an organisation whether they hold your personal information, and if so what they hold. They also have to tell you how they are using your data, who has access to it, and how long they intend to use it. Companies are obliged to handle requests within 30 days, although they are able to extend this in the case of multiple or complex cases. Most of the time they must do this for free. If you are not satisfied by the way your request has been processed, or the organisation hasn’t responded at all, you have the right to appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

How do I make a request?

Subject access requests can be submitted in almost any means, both off and online. Some companies have a standard form you can fill out which helps streamline the process, but they are still obliged to handle your request even if you choose to use your own format. As I mentioned earlier in most cases they can’t charge you for any administrative costs, unless your request is “manifestly unfounded or excessive”. You should receive a response within a month, however organisations can extend their time for another two months in the case of multiple or complex requests, in which case they should advise you of this. 

Can my request be refused?

There are two main reasons your subject access request could be legitimately refused. The first is if you’re being investigated for crime or tax evasion and giving you access to the information would prejudice the investigation. Companies can also choose to withhold certain information if they believe disclosing it could identify somebody else.

Why should I put in a request?

By now you might be asking why you should bother in the first place. Well there are several good reasons you might put in a subject access request. SARs are useful for finding out what a company does with your personal information and whether they have handed it to any third parties. It could tell you where they got your information from in the first place. 

Final thought

Subject access requests are also useful for finding possible reasons behind automated decisions, for example if you’re refused a bank account or a job. Finally having this information of course allows you to get it corrected if it is found to be false or out of date.


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