Does data protection stop me from finding out who owns an abandoned vehicle?

Published: 22 September 2021

Does data protection stop me from finding out who owns an abandoned vehicle?
No it does not. As with all tasks that involve people’s data there are some steps that must be taken for it to be done properly and in compliance with the law.

This issue is covered by data protection law because when you buy a vehicle, your personal data (e.g. name, address, contact details) becomes connected to the vehicle via its registration.

Being able to contact the ‘registered keeper’ of an abandoned vehicle is specifically addressed in The Data Protection (General Provisions) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations, 2018.

The relevant part of the Law is: Schedule 2 Authorised processing of personal data*. This part of the Law allows The States of Guernsey Committee for Environment & Infrastructure to enable or facilitate ‘the owner or occupier of the land on which the vehicle is abandoned to take action to enable the removal or disposal of the vehicle’. This provision does not compel the disclosure of relevant information; the decision remains with the Committee for Environment and Infrastructure whether to disclose, but it is available as a mechanism and was included in the Law (as it was in the previous Data Protection Law) to deal with this common scenario.

Schedule 2 Authorised processing of personal data states that:
The following conditions must (all) be satisfied*
(a) the processing is by way of disclosure by the Environment Committee
^, (i.e. for this to be legally compliant only The Environment Committee could release the registered keeper’s details)
(b) the registered keeper is physically or legally incapable of giving consent to the disclosure, or the Environment Committee cannot reasonably be expected to obtain the consent of the registered keeper, and (i.e. because it’s an abandoned vehicle the registered keeper is not known and therefore cannot consent) 
(c) the disclosure is made on terms and conditions determined by the Environment Committee after consulting the Authority. (i.e. the Environment Committee must define how and why they plan to disclose registered keeper details and make the Data Protection Authority aware of their plans, taking on board any comments made by the Authority).

The local data protection law was drafted and approved by The States of Guernsey. The Data Protection Authority is the independent statutory body tasked with regulating the law.

* all text in italics is quoted directly from the law.
^ The Environment Committee is defined in the Regulations as the States of Guernsey Committee for Environment & Infrastructure.