Feeds

Watchdog wags finger at waffly privacy policies

Companies must cut the gobbledegook

Security for virtualized datacentres

Privacy policies are full of jargon and are designed to reduce organisations' liability rather than to help people understand what their personal data might be used for, the UK's privacy watchdog has said.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has published guidelines on what privacy policies should look like and is engaging in a consultation on its draft code of practice.

"The ICO believes that some existing privacy notices contain too much legal jargon and are written to protect organisations, rather than to inform the public about how their information will be used," said an ICO statement about the consultation.

Privacy policies are the explanations that companies use when they gather people's personal information such as names, addresses and telephone numbers. They are often published side by side with fair collection statements. The gathering and use of this information is governed by the Data Protection Act (DPA).

The ICO has published its code of practice in order to encourage companies to be clear and fair about how they will use data, it said.

"Collecting information about people in the proper way lies at the heart of good data protection practice," said Iain Bourne, head of data protection projects at the ICO. "As more and more of our personal details are collected, we want to ensure that privacy notices provide clear, user friendly information to the public about how their personal details will be used and what the consequences of this are likely to be."

Privacy notices should be used when information will be used in an unusual way said Commissioner Richard Thomas in the consultation document.

"The duty to actively communicate a privacy notice is strongest where the intended use of the information will be unexpected, objectionable or controversial, or where the information is confidential or particularly sensitive," he said.

Thomas said that good privacy policies will "make sure individuals know how information about them will be used, and what the consequences of this are likely to be. It will also allow them to build up a picture of the sheer scale and sophistication of the systems that collect so much information about all of us."

The DPA allows the ICO to prepare codes of practice, but a breach of the code will not in itself be a breach of the law, and the ICO could not take direction action on code breaches.

The ICO said that it will take account of a company's compliance with the code's principles when a complaint has been made to it about a company's privacy practices.

The DPA demands that companies process personal information fairly. The ICO said in its guidance that this can mean either that it is processed as people would expect it to be, or that it is processed differently but a privacy notice informs them of this.

The draft code of practice contains examples of good and bad privacy notices. The consultation on the draft is open until 3 April.

See: The consultation (17-page/1MB pdf)

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

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

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.