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ICO: Volunteer to be audited by us, we might not bust you

'No, don't do that', says a lawyer

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The Information Commissioner's Office said more companies should offer themselves up for voluntary audits.

According to the quango's annual report, a third of organisations offered the chance to be audited by the ICO accepted.

Of the 603 breaches last year, 186 came from private companies. But only 19 per cent of these firms agreed to ICO audits.

The ICO promises its free data protection audits are not about "naming and shaming". The quango has written to some organisations offering the service.

But Kathryn Wynn, senior associate and data protection specialist at law firm Pinsent Masons said: "Companies should sort out their own procedures, and if necessary hire in outside help, before going to the ICO. Companies should have their house in order before calling in the regulator for a stamp of approval."

Wynn said organisations and companies should spend some time thinking about what to do if the worst did happen, as well as work hard to make sure it didn't.

She said: "Often the reaction to a breach is more important – look at Sony – no one can blame them for getting hacked, but you need to react properly afterwards."

A spokesman for the ICO said: "The ICO audit is designed to be constructive. We work with with organisations to find areas of concern and to improve general compliance. The scope of the audit is agreed in advance with companies. If we find a compliance issue we wouldn't necessarily take action."

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said the organisation had made good progress in cutting the number of overdue Freedom of Information requests – the other part of the quango's responsibilities.

This year also saw the regulator impose its first non-compliance fines. The recipients were: Hertfordshire County Council – £100,000; A4e Limited – £60,000; Ealing Council – £80,000; and Hounslow Council – £70,000.

On European cookie law, Graham said the ICO would only take action against companies which take little action to comply.

You can watch Graham read the intro to the report or download it as a PDF at the ICO's website. ®

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