Exam scripts as personal data
In the initial legal action, a case was brought to court by a trainee accountant who failed an accountancy exam overseen by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (CAI) four times. After his fourth failure, the examinee requested access to all personal data held on him by the CAI. The institute released 17 different records but claimed the exam paper did not constitute personal data under Irish law. The Irish Office of the Data Protection Commissioner rejected a subsequent complaint against this decision and indeed characterised the complaint as “frivolous and vexatious”; not least because the document sought was an “open book” exam paper containing answers to questions.
The ECJ opinion found that “an examination script incorporates information about the examination candidate and is, in that sense, a collection of personal data”. Personal data in an exam script was deemed not to be confined to the exam result or marks in that handwritten papers contain even more personal data because of their ability to provide evidence of the user’s identity, even where they contained an ID number or barcode instead of a person’s name.