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There should be a high level of awareness in organisations of their obligations to protect customers' personal information, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has said.

It is the aim of the ICO to ensure that organisations are informed of "their wider obligations under information rights law with those obligations routinely met in practice," the ICO's draft strategy on information rights (13-page/173KB PDF) said.

The ICO published its draft strategy detailing what it sees as its objectives as the UK's data protection regulator. It has also launched a consultation asking businesses and others to comment on whether its strategy lists the correct priorities.

"Our goal is to achieve a sustained reduction in risks to the upholding of information rights so that ultimately all organisations collect and use personal information responsibly, securely and fairly; all public authorities are open and transparent, providing people with access to official information as a matter of course; people are aware of their information rights and are confident in using them, [and] people understand how their personal information is used and are able to take steps to protect themselves from misuse," the ICO's draft strategy said.

The ICO said an objective it had was for organisations to meet their legal obligations "routinely" when responding to people who wanted information about the personal information held about them and said it wants organisations to develop a culture where good information rights becomes part of day-to-day processes.

The law should protect people's personal data rights, the ICO said. The regulator said it wants "a legislative framework for information rights that is consistent with good information rights practice, furthers the upholding of information rights and enables the ICO to be an effective regulator".

Individuals should have better awareness of their personal information rights, the ICO said. It said it was aiming for "a high proportion" of people to have at least "basic awareness" of their rights and who would know how to "exercise" them, the ICO's draft strategy said.

People should learn about their personal data rights, and the risks involved in disclosing their details, within the ICO's education system, the ICO said in its draft strategy.

"Education, awareness raising and the provision of guidance are therefore key activities for us," the ICO strategy said.

The ICO said it wants to improve public confidence in information rights law and to show that it is "necessary, proportionate, serves the public interest and is properly enforced," the ICO draft strategy said.

The ICO said it would work with regulators abroad.

"We also have to recognise that in an era of global data flows and universal deployment of new technologies risks to the upholding of information rights neither come exclusively from within the UK nor are capable of being addressed by the ICO alone," the ICO said in its draft strategy.

"We need to work at international level, most particularly with other information rights regulators, to ensure that, in so far as it makes sense to do so, we take a consistent and harmonised approach to the application of information rights law," the ICO said in its strategy.

The ICO's consultation (8-page / 171KB PDF) includes questions asking respondents to consider whether it has set out its strategy clearly, whether it has identified the correct objectives and whether it is doing everything it can to maximise its impact as a regulator. The consultation closes on 12 August.

Copyright © 2011, OUT-LAW.com

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

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