Information Commissioner launches consultation into online data

The Information Commissioner’s Office is launching an online consultation on a new draft code of practice which will provide organisations with a practical and common sense approach to protecting individuals’ privacy online.


The new draft guidance explains how the law applies and calls on organisations to give people the right degree of choice and control over their personal information, for instance by giving them clear privacy choices or making it easier for people to erase their personal information at the end of a browsing session.

Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, says: “The internet plays a huge role in our everyday lives as we do more of our business online than ever before. Customers can always vote with their feet and punish organisations that they feel have let them down – which serves as a very real reminder that getting privacy online wrong is a risky game to play. People should have control over what happens to their personal information online whether it’s correcting inaccuracies, deleting profiles or choosing the privacy settings that suit them.”

The draft guidance will help organisations comply with the law and provides a common sense approach to collecting personal information online, including when to collect information and when not to.

Iain Bourne, head of data protection projects, says: “Collecting information about people in the proper way, including making them fully aware of what will happen to their personal information and how they can access it and keep it accurate, lies at the heart of good privacy protection. The draft code of practice explains a difficult
area of the law and provides practical advice on a range of online privacy issues. It urges organisations to do more to explain what they do with the information they collect about people and to make sure they use it in line with individuals’ wishes.”

The consultation begins today (9 December) and ends on the 5 March 2010.

Simon McDougall, head of privacy & data protection for Deloiite adds: “We need a common understanding of good practice in website privacy. Businesses perceive a dilemma between using unwieldy disclaimers, or accusations of lacking transparency. Users hear conflicting messages on features such as behavioural marketing and cookie usage, and this discourages many from doing business online. A plain English ICO Code of Practice will help build trust and encourage privacy-aware innovation.”

Meanwhile, Facebook will call on its more than 350 million users to review and update their privacy settings—a first among major Internet services.  In addition, Facebook will be launching easy-to-use tools to give users personalised and greater control over the information they share – based on what the content is, why they are sharing it, when, and the audience they seek to reach.

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