Latest Public Sector News

15.07.14

Information Commissioner calls for greater powers

The Information Commissioner has called for stronger powers, more sustainable funding and a clearer guarantee of independence in order for the data regulator to do its “job properly, and represent people properly”.

At the launch of the Information Commissioner’s Office’s (ICO) annual report, Christopher Graham said: “The last 12 months have been a record year – more complaints resolved than ever, more enforcement action taken and more advice given through our helpline.

“And it also means having the powers to act on the more serious complaints. A strong regulator is needed if a data breach affects millions of people.”

In the last year, the ICO resolved 15,492 data protection complaints, a rise of more than10% on the previous financial year, which resulted in £1.97m worth of fines being handed out to companies that were found to have breached data protection rules. It also decided on 5,296 freedom of information complaints, a 12% rise on last year’s figure, and received 161,720 reports from people concerned about spam texts and nuisance calls.   

The report included a summary of the ICO’s work, which included a number of examples of local councils, health organisations and government departments being issued civil monetary for failing to keep data protected. An example of this included the Ministry of Justice which, in October last year, was fined a total of £140,000 after details of more than 1,000 prisoners at a Cardiff prison were sent out to three prisoner’s families.

Graham believes that, as organisations’ use of data gets ever more complicated, the public needs to know someone is watching over their information, and that a strong regulator is needed if a data breach affects millions of people.

During the launch of the report, the Information Commissioner also highlighted that the troubled launch of care.data, Facebook’s research and the so-called Google ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling show why there’s a need to have an independent regulator.

He said: “That needs to be someone who’s independent, of government and business, so the public know the regulator can be trusted. Sometimes the state is itself the issue. When the Intelligence and Security Committee wanted to know how the Snowden revelations fitted with data protection law, it was the Information Commissioner they turned to.

“Independence means someone who’s got the resources to take on this ever-growing number of cases. That someone is the ICO. We’re effective, efficient and busier than ever. But to do our job properly, to represent people properly, we need stronger powers, more sustainable funding and a clearer guarantee of independence.”

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