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The UK's Information Commissioner has called for businesses to pull their socks up and protect their data.

Its latest campaign is to encourage businesses to "avoid embarrassing security breaches" that involve the loss or abuse of data about customers or employees by employing privacy technologies.

A guidance note issued today by the IC promoted the use of software that provides anonymity to computer users.

And it gave official sanction to a technology that is championed by civil liberties campaigners as an alternative to ID cards, known in the trade as federated identity management.

Deputy Information Commissioner Jonathan Bamford, said it was important for businesses and governments to retain the trust of their customers and citizens by nurturing their data.

"There's a competitive advantage in looking after people's personal information properly," he said.

The right controls ensure data doesn't get into the wrong hands, is used for anything other than its intended purposes, "so it doesn't become fair game in the information wild west", he added.

In the course of laying out its advice, the IC also threw some new technologies and principles into the same bag, which techies call privacy enhancing technologies (PETs), as anonymity software.

This included biometric scanners that do not retain the fingerprints they scan, banks that allow online users to edit their personal records, and privacy policies that stick to the information with which they are associated and ensure it is never used for anything but the purpose intended when it was divulged. ®

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