Data Protection Act 'is not enforced'
Private sector losing more data than gov?
A subject-matter expert has said that "there is effectively no enforcement" of the Data Protection Act, and suggested that corporate data losses or breaches are even more prevalent than in the public sector.
Andrew Sharpe, partner at London law firm Charles Russell, practices in the field of technology and telecoms law. He also lectures and consults, in particular for the government. In addition to his legal qualifications, he holds a degree in electronic engineering and spent several years working on data and communications in the RAF. Yesterday evening, he was a panel member for a debate entitled "Privacy in the Digital World", hosted by the government's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
During the debate, Sharpe said that companies were probably losing at least as much confidential and personal data as the government was.
"The public sector is leading the charge [in data loss]" he said. "But just because people are in the private sector, does that mean they never lose a memory stick? I think not."
Sharpe argued that there was no incentive for a corporation to disclose that it had lost people's data, and so generally such news doesn't become public. "Usually they just hope that memory stick just stays there, down the drain in the carpark or wherever they dropped it," he said.
Even where a UK firm was caught bang to rights losing or revealing data there was little comeback, said Sharpe.
"In other fields, companies go to lawyers to make sure they are complying with the law," he said. "Nobody comes to me to make sure they're complying with the Data Protection Act, because there's no downside for them if they screw up.
"If somebody loses your data, or leaks it, or gives it to someone you didn't want to have it, don't come to me - don't expect the law to do anything... there is effectively no enforcement."
Other panel members included Tom Ilube of online-ID security firm Garlik, semantic-web prof Dame Wendy Hall and Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group. All agreed that digital privacy was a hot-button issue, and suggested that in many countries there was effectively no debate. The fact that there is a debate in the UK was seen by Ilube, for one, as a "major opportunity" for the UK - naturally enough he thought that privacy combined with useful online access could be big business, as that's what his firm sells.
Even so, nobody seemed to have a firm idea of the right balance between information being useable and accessible and people's rights to privacy - or even to make a mistake without having it recorded for all time. The strategy of "digital nudism" - simply exposing all your information on the web and not worrying about it - was widely rubbished, but the assembled experts also gave it as their opinion that some online/net presence and conspicuousness was unavoidable.
"People ask me sometimes, how do I go off the grid, disappear?" said Ilube.
"You don't." ®
Every time data is lost, the CEO/Manager/Head Twonk, get's his/her personal details, bank balance, license number, address & photo displayed on the from cover of the Daily Mail.
AC: Of course, I don't lose data!
Private sector get off lightly - for now...
Just back from ICO DPO conference 2009
where exactly these points were made
a) that there is a growing trend for private sector to lose data now as compared to prevalence of public sector up to now
b) a reminder that a lot of govt data handling is outsourced - eg: HMRC, NHS
c) a reminder that at present there is NO obligation on private sector to report losses of data and every incentive for them to remain shtum
d) a reminder that ICO currently has NO powers to require audit of private organisations/corporations
so - up to now - if private companies lost data, and no one "noticed" outside the organisation, they have a real incentive to just cover it up. And if they DO cover it up the ICO has no power to investigate their systems or require an audit. He can only issue an assessment if someone else complains and has evidence of the loss.
See follow up to the DPO conference and a report on how we got on there making representations about Phorm and BT's own data leaks and snooping, by going to this thread - our report will be up soon.
Proposals currently going through in s8 of Coroners and Justice Bill (yes that one) to give increased powers to ICO to enforce audits in private sector.
Well duh, Where do you think all that bad debt the "chums" bought and got bailed out of came from? Thin air?
MOST laws are not properly enforced.
It is a criminal offence for a mail order seller to state they are not responsible for loss or damage in transit -- because they ARE responsible in law, and misrepresenting their responsibility is misrepresentation, which is also the law.
Search for "I am not responsible" on ebay and you will find hundreds of business sellers doing just that.
It would be just a few seconds work for Trading Standards to find them and prosecute them. But no, they can't be bothered. And thus a well-meaning law has become all but worthless.
How very true
In fact this happened to myself . A Public Body unlawfully disclosed data. The Data Protection Commissioner decided UNILATERALLY with the Public Body that they would not investigate until the Public Body said that they wanted them to !. Everything in this Country is an illusion to keep 99.9% of the population who don't ever need "it" happy that their tax monies are going to useful
causes, and the .1% find they are stuffed when they come to use "it" . It can be anything from
data breach to getting legal aid. It is all BS.