Feeds

MPs back more powers for ICO

Watchdog needs sharper teeth, says committee

SANS - Survey on application security programs

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) should have the power to issue custodial sentences for breaches of the Data Protection Act, going further than its current powers of issuing fines to organisations which breach the act, Parliament's justice committee has said.

In a report titled Referral fees and the theft of personal data, the committee says: "Currently the only available penalty is a fine, which we feel is inadequate in cases where people have been endangered by the data disclosed, or where the intrusion or disclosure was particularly traumatic for the victim, or where there is no deterrent because the financial gain resulting from the crime far exceeds the possible penalty."

It adds: "We urge the government to exercise its power to provide for custodial sentences without delay."

The report also claims that the ICO is being prevented from investigating, identifying problems and preventing data protection breaches adequately. After hearing evidence from Christopher Graham, the information commissioner, the committee believes this is a particular problem in the healthcare and insurance sector.

"The audits he [information commissioner] offers are free and operate on a risk-based approach and in the last year he has only carried out three or four a month," says the report. "We call on the Ministry of Justice to work with the information commissioner to assess how the current system is working, and to consider why he has not formally requested the power to compel audits in any additional sectors and whether this process is unduly cumbersome."

This should be done in a "timely manner" while minimising the regulatory burden on the public and private sector. The committee recommends that the ICO should also become directly responsible to and be funded by Parliament.

The committee and Graham have also both said that the points raised should be dealt with by Parliament, and that the ICO should not have to wait for the outcome of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into issues of media regulation before a decision is made on the extension of the watchdog's powers, which the government has indicated is its preferred approach.

Welcoming the committee's report, Graham said: "We shouldn't have to wait a further year for the 2008 legislation to be commenced when today's highly profitable trade in our data has little if anything to do with the press.

"The commissioner recently called for stronger powers of audit. The ICO is building a business case for the extension of assessment notice powers to parts of the private sector, such as motor insurance and financial services as well as to the NHS and local government."

Last year David Smith, the deputy information commissioner, said the ICO was no longer a "toothless bulldog" after it was given the power to issue fines of up to £500,000 for data protection offences. The ICO has repeatedly stated that it wants to take a firmer stance on data protection.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.