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What Is Access My Info?

What do companies know about you? How do they handle your data? And who do they share it with?

Access My Info (AMI) is a project that can help answer these questions by assisting you in making legally binding data access requests to companies. AMI includes a web application that helps users send companies data access requests, and a research methodology designed to understand the responses companies make to these requests. Past AMI projects have shed light on how companies treat user data and contribute to digital privacy reforms around the world.

What are data access requests?

A data access request is a letter you can send to any company with products/services that you use. The request asks that the company disclose all the information it has about you and whether or not it has shared your data with any third-parties. If the place where you live has data protection laws that include the right to data access then companies may be legally obligated to respond.

What we've discovered

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AMI has made personal data requests in jurisdictions around the world and found common patterns.

  1. There are significant gaps between data access laws on paper and the law in practice;
  2. People have consistently encountered barriers to accessing their data.

Together with our partners in each jurisdiction, we have used Access My Info to set off a dialog between users, civil society, regulators, and companies.

Case studies

๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Canada

Industry: Telecommunications, fitness trackers, online dating services

The Citizen Lab has identified a range of barriers which people encounter when trying to access complete copies of their data. Barriers have included costs charged for access, identity verification procedures, and data transmission procedures. Based on these results the Citizen Lab has made a range of recommendations for reducing barriers to access.

๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Australia

Industry: Telecommunications

Many companies failed to respond to requests. Companies that did reply often provided inconsistent information and guidance to users.

๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Hong Kong

Industry: telecommunications

Companies argued that IP addresses and geolocation records were not personal data and therefore that the companies were not required to give users access to this data. With these findings we opened a dialog with the Privacy Commissioner of Hong Kong about what constitutes personal data; this led to the Commissioner publicly asserting that IP address and geolocation information constituted personal data.

๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท South Korea

Industry: telecommunications

South Korea has one of the most robust data protection regime in the world. However, we found very superficial compliance to data requests from companies. As a result a lawsuit was filed against a major Korean telecommunications company for failing to adequately respond to requests.

๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฉ Indonesia

Industry: Telecommunications

Indonesia currently lacks specific regulations on data protection. Few companies responded to personal data requests and those which did provided very limited information. These results demonstrate the importance of introducing data protection legislation with robust data access rights for individuals.

๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡พ Malaysia

Industry: telecommunications

Data protection legislation has been in place in Malaysia since 2013, but our research shows that telecommunication companies in Malaysia are not yet ready to fully respond to data access requests. The results provide an important educational opportunity for policymakers and industry to better understand the requirements of Malaysiaโ€™s Personal Data Protection Act.

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Running your own AMI project

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Here's how a typical AMI project plays out:

1
Research privacy, data protection & access laws
โŒ›๏ธ 2-4 weeks
2
Localize & setup AMI web application
โŒ›๏ธ 2-4 weeks
3
Evangelize project & file data access requests
โŒ›๏ธ 2+ months
4
Collate results & write research report
โŒ›๏ธ 1-2 months
5
Publicize findings & advocate for reform
โŒ›๏ธ Variable
While AMI can technically be run by one, full-time person over the course of 3-6 months, weโ€™ve found that most past projects tend to involve a team of 3-4 researchers/advocates with the ongoing support of 1 technologist/system administrator.
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Additional Resources

For a full walkthrough on how to develop and deploy your own Access My Info project, download our PDF playbook.
GitHub logo
For more technical details, visit our GitHub repos for the AMI web application backend and frontend.