Simple self-service tool helps people exercise information rights

Shout and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have worked together to transform the subject access request process with a simple online self-service process. 

As citizens, we have the right to ask organisations whether they are using, or storing, our personal information. This process is known as making a Subject Access Request or SAR.


Citizens making a SAR are advised to do this in writing. But historically, most SARs would come to organisations as letters or emails that were very broad, difficult to understand and time-consuming to respond to. This could lead to a poor experience for the citizen, a costly hassle for organisations, and too many requests going on to become complaints to the organisation and the ICO. As part of their ICO25 plan, the ICO made a commitment to develop an online solution.


Many of the 35,000 complaints the ICO receive each year are about access to data, so making the process easier for both businesses and individuals has a huge potential impact.


Initial feedback was strong, with a 4.7/5 user rating, and triple the number of SAR’s submitted in the first two weeks (1400 versus 460) than via the old method.


The requirement

Develop an online solution that will:

  • Help businesses respond to people making an SAR more quickly
  • Make SARs more specific in terms of the information being requested
  • Better manage people’s expectations about what they’re likely to receive
  • Reduce complaints received from customers about the speed and completeness of SAR responses


The solution

A new online form was developed with the ICO, which prompts users to complete specific information to ensure a SAR can be processed quickly.

The subject access tool helps users send a request and explains what they should expect.

It will send the request direct to the receiving organisation with instructions to help them respond to it quickly and simply.

The form takes about 10 minutes for the requestor to complete, and recipients will receive a consistently structured response, helping them to understand and respond to a request.

As the development was done, user testing was carried out to make sure the form could be completed easily. Adjustments to the template were made based on feedback.

The new form is currently in public beta, and the ICO are collecting feedback to improve the next version.


Results so far

In the two weeks since this initial phase was made live, around 1400 SAR submissions were completed. For context, that’s three times as many that were submitted via the previous template letter method across the same time period.

User feedback averaged 4.7 out of 5 in the first few weeks.

A great example of the results and efficiencies to be had from digitising a process – even a relatively simple solution can have a big impact.


See the solution:


 About the Information Commissioner’s Office

The ICO is the UK's independent body set up to uphold information rights. ICO’s digital services are a key pillar of the organisation’s work, and the resources there are searched by ~120,000 people each week.

The ICO have been a Shout client since 2018, and continue to partner with us on digital products to support their strategic aims.

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