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Justice Ministry opens ICO consultation

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The Ministry of Justice has published a consultation on changes to the powers and funding of the Information Commissioner's Office - a core conclusion of the Data Sharing Review was that the ICO needed more money and more powers to be effective.

The consultation proposes changing the current £35 flat-fee arrangement for registering with the ICO. The proposal would see the introduction of three levels based on European definitions of small, medium and large organisations - less than 50 people, 50 to 250 people and over 250 people. The ICO made over £10m from fees last year.

The Data Protection Act would also be changed so that the ICO could apply for a warrant to raid premises even where he does not have reasonable grounds to suspect a breach of the data protection principles - such as cases where "there may be a risk of non-compliance even though there are not yet grounds for suspicion," or "the Commissioner needs or wishes to undertake a random check".

The Ministry proposes a new penalty for data controllers who "knowingly or recklessly provide incorrect information as part of their notification fee self assessment".

There could also be changes to the way good practice assessments (GPAs) work. GPAs are meant to be cooperative - the ICO needs the data controller's permission. They may be requested by a data controller or by the ICO. The consultation proposes to change this so you effectively consent to an inspection when you register as a data controller.

Meanwhile Labour MPs are threatening to block the Information Commissioner's pay rise in reaction to his insistence that they make public their expenses. There is due to be a vote on Monday on Richard Thomas's £41,000 pay rise - his post has been regraded.

The complete consultation is available as a pdf here. Interested parties have until 27 August to respond to the proposals. As well as asking for responses the MoJ will hold events to get public reaction to the consultation. ®

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