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UK to jail data thieves for two years

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People who steal personal data in the UK will face up to two years' jail, the Government announced today.

The move is intended in particular to clamp down on the illegal trade in personal data by private investigators for whatever unscrupulous means their clients have in mind.

The Information Commissioner Office has long pressed the government to lock people who buy and sell data away in prison. Currently, the toughest sanction is a fine.

The Department for Constitutional Affairs today said it planned to lock them up for up to two years, along with anyone else who might spread other people's private business about for other reasons.

"People have a right to have their privacy protected from those who would deliberately misuse it and I believe the introduction of custodial penalties will be an effective deterrent to those who seek to procure or wilfully abuse personal data," said Lord Falconer, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs.

Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, is "delighted" the government has heeded his advice.

But this is an easy one to chalk up. Governments are busy building "data sharing" links between their various civil databases, then between those and police and immigration databases, and then further with other governments.

But more data sharing means more ways of stealing more people's data.

This is unacceptable to No2ID, the campaign group opposed to the rise of the "database state". There will always be someone willing to slip out personal secrets, if there is enough incentive, it argued when this came up last year. So why make it easier for data thieves in the first place? ®

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