New year, new teeth for Information Commission

Parliament is considering granting new powers to the Information Commissioner’s Office which could see it levy penalties as high as £500,000 for data security breaches. The proposals have already been approved by the Secretary of State for Justice and, if rubber stamped by MPs, will come into force on 6th April.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham says: “Getting data protection right has never been more important than it is today. As citizens, we are increasingly asked to complete transactions online, with the state, banks and other organisations using huge databases to store our personal details. When things go wrong, a security breach can cause real harm and great distress to thousands of people.”

He adds: “These penalties are designed to act as a deterrent and to promote compliance with the Data Protection Act. I remain committed to working with voluntary, public and private bodies to help them stick to the rules and comply with the Act. But I will not hesitate to use these tough new sanctions for the most serious cases where organisations disregard the law.”

Enhanced fines are part of an overhaul of the ICO’s regulatory toolkit which has previously been limited to serving enforcement notices and prosecutions. The scale of monetary penalities will be proportionate to the factors involved in a breach, such as an organisation’s size, resources and the severity of the breach. Deliberate contraventions of the DPA or negligence will attract the most severe penalties.



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