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ICO calls for tougher sanctions against unlawful trade in personal data

28 Sep 2011 12:48 BST Back
ICO calls for tougher sanctions against unlawful trade in personal data
DMA News

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The UK Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has called for the need for tougher sanctions to be made available to tackle the unlawful trade in personal data.

In Graham’s 17-minute speech to mark the 10th International Right to Know day (28 September) broadcast on Youtube, he says that while the ICO already takes action against companies and individuals responsible for the unlawful disclosure of consumers’ personal information, he believes “there needs to be a stronger deterrent to the unlawful trade in personal data, however acquired.” 

Graham adds: The matter is urgent, not least as the previous government pointed out […] in 2006 for the need to build public confidence in open and transparent data. If you want to reassure the public that data can be shared without endangering legitimate expectations of privacy, you have to demonstrate there are effective sanctions against misuse.”

In referring to the need for 'tougher sanctions', the Information Commissioner is hinting at the fact that the Government has yet to bring into force jail sentences for special breaches of the Data Protection Act, even though it entered the statute books earlier this year. The ICO already has the power to impose fines of up to £500,000 against those found guilty of breaking data privacy laws.

Graham’s comments were made in the wider context of pressing for the need to close the gap between citizens’ right of access to government information and the “don’t tell ‘em” reality that he says regularly frustrates citizens making FOI requests. 

While Graham’s speech does not take direct aim at brands that use consumer data for marketing purposes, his call for tougher sanctions against the culprits behind illegal data trading highlight the need for data owners to ensure they have effective data protection measures in place.

In June, the DMA warned brands that they face a data drought due to diminishing consumer trust in their ability to use their personal information responsibly. Just one in four (27%) of the 1,032 consumers polled for the DMA’s annual Data Tracking Study said they are willing to share their full details with brands when signing up to receive company information.

By Neil Turner 

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