Feeds

ICO to focus on reducing risk, not enforcement

'We have to be selective with our interventions'

High performance access to file storage

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.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.