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Privacy watchdog ICO slashes its fines in half

Not interested in punishing companies 'left, right and centre'

Woman slaps man. Pic: Shutterstock

The total value of fines issued by the UK Information Commissioner's Office has halved compared with last year – despite the watchdog receiving roughly the same number of complaints about data protection.

In 2014/15, the ICO issued £1.1m in so-called civil monetary penalties, £386,000 of which were for companies behind nuisance calls or texts. It received 14,268 data protection concerns. The previous year the body issued nearly £2m in penalties and handled 14,738 complaints.

Many have called on the watchdog to issue more fines to shock companies into preventing privacy breaches. But in May the ICO said issuing fines "left, right and centre" is not the way to safeguard privacy.

The figures also show an 11.4 per cent increase in number of concerns raised about nuisance calls and texts to 180,188.

The figures are included in the ICO's annual report to be published today.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Information Commissioner Christopher Graham will point to the strengthening of the ICO's regulatory powers over the last year.

In the past year, the ICO was given powers to compulsorily audit NHS bodies for their data handling. Meanwhile, forcing a potential employee to make a subject access request for their spent criminal record was also made an offence. And a law was changed that made it easier to fine companies behind nuisance calls and texts.

He will say: “Our Annual Report is our claim to be listened to in the debates around information rights. It shows the ICO knows what it is talking about.”

According to Graham, the next 12 months will be "crucial" for the ICO, as Brussels is in the middle of reforming Europe's data protection laws. "We’ve been asked for our advice, based on our experience regulating the existing law, while we’ve also provided a sensible commentary on proceedings for interested observers," he will say. ®

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