Feeds

ICO to focus on reducing risk, not enforcement

'We have to be selective with our interventions'

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has said that its aim is to protect people from the risks associated with abuses of their personal data rather than strictly enforce the law. It has announced its broad aims in a new strategy document (pdf).

The document will guide its activities overall, prioritising the use of its resources which it said were not sufficient to do everything it could in the data protection arena.

"Being a strategic regulator means that, in so far as we have a choice, we have to be selective with our interventions," said the strategy document. "We will therefore apply our limited resources in ways that deliver the maximum return in terms of a sustained reduction in data protection risk. That is the risk of harm through improper use of personal information."

The ICO said it would concentrate more on the avoidance of this risk than strict enforcement of the law. "We are not seeking compliance with the law as an end in itself," it said. "Making our vision a reality means minimising data protection risk for individuals and society. The law is the main tool we have at our disposal to achieve this, but we go further and promote good practice.

"We cannot address all areas of data protection risk equally, nor should we attempt to do so."

The ICO identified a number of areas in which it will concentrate its attentions. These include fighting the unlawful trade in personal information, battling the increasing surveillance of UK residents, monitoring increasing information sharing between organisations and undertaking data protection supervision.

"One consequence of our approach is the likelihood that we will need to devote proportionately more of our policy work to developments in the public sector than to developments in the private sector," it said. "This is a recognition of where the most serious data protection risks can arise."

The ICO said it would try to prioritise, but that some judgments involved a degree of subjectivity.

"We will give priority to tackling situations where there is a real likelihood of serious harm to individuals or society. The necessary judgements especially about seriousness are not always easy. Loss of privacy can qualify as a harm in its own right, but there are difficult issues of objectivity and subjectivity. Some individuals value their privacy more than others. Our approach will be as objective as possible."

The ICO has consistently argued for more resources and greater powers. Information Commissioner Richard Thomas has warned that the UK is becoming a surveillance society and has said he needs more staff to tackle the problems of privacy and data protection.

Thomas submitted a proposal to Government in January of this year asking for a new offence to be created of recklessly or knowingly breaching data protection principles, which would be punishable by unlimited fines.

He also asked for the power to put an immediate stop to data processing by any organisation that he thought was "seriously unlawful".

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
DOUBLE BONK: Testy fanbois catch Apple Pay picking pockets
Users wail as tapcash transactions are duplicated
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.