Straw bulks up Information Commissioner's powers

24 Nov 2008 View Comments
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Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas is to get more powers under new legislation proposed by Jack Straw

The Information Commissioner is to be given tougher powers to regulate the Data Protection Act under proposals put forward today by Justice Secretary Jack Straw.

The proposals form part of the government's response to the Data Sharing Review, which highlighted serious deficiencies in the handling of citizens' data in central government.

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"As new technologies have developed, the secure storage and careful sharing of personal information held by both the public and private sectors has become paramount," said Straw.

"The changes we propose today will strengthen the Information Commissioner's ability to enforce the Data Protection Act, and improve the transparency and accountability of organisations dealing with personal information."

The proposals will enable the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to:

  • Impose monetary penalties on data controllers for deliberate or reckless loss of data
  • Inspect central government departments and public authorities' compliance with the Data Protection Act without always requiring prior consent
  • Require any person, where a warrant is being served, to provide information required to determine compliance with the Data Protection Act
  • Impose a deadline and location for the provision of information necessary to assess compliance
  • Publish guidance on when organisations should notify the ICO of breaches of the data protection principles
  • Publish a statutory data sharing code of practice to provide practical guidance on sharing personal data

The government also proposes revising the ICO's funding structure for its work on data protection to a tiered fee system based on size of organisation. This will replace the £35 flat-rate notification fee which has not changed since its introduction in 1984.

Legislation will be introduced as soon as the parliamentary schedule allows, according to the Ministry of Justice.

Straw also proposed a motion to increase the Information Commissioner's salary from £98,000 to £140,000.

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