Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Britain's Information Commissioner's Office Worried Over Data Privacy [Data Privacy - United Kingdom]

The UK's data protection watchdog has warned that greater transparency about data collection is needed as more personal information is shared between different organisations.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has published new guidelines for individuals to better understand how and why organisations use their data under the current Data Protection Act.

People are not always aware of the extent to which their personal data can be shared by different organisations, according to the ICO -- between, for instance, the police and a local authority.

Iain Bourne, head of data protection projects at the ICO, said in a statement: "More and more information is being shared about us, often for useful and wholly legitimate purposes. It is important that individuals are aware of their rights under the Data Protection Act."

Responding to the ICO's warning, Graham Hann, a technology partner at European law firm Taylor Wessing, said UK data protection laws "are not clearly interpreted in many areas" which can make it difficult for people to understand their rights. Wessing warned that although the general legal requirement is that companies cannot use individuals' data in ways they have not consented to, there are exceptions.

He said in a statement: "New laws brought in recently require that customers opt in to sharing of data for marketing purposes where the marketing would be by email. However not all organisations have caught up to speed with these laws and individuals may find their details being used by businesses wishing to sell them goods or services that they have no interest in receiving."

Businesses should be wary of buying data from third-party sources, he said, and be sure to verify they have legal right to use the data in the way they intend.

The law firm added that consumers' awareness of data protection issues has "risen dramatically in recent years".

The latest data warning from the data protection watchdog follows the launch of's Full Disclosure campaign - which is aiming to persuade the UK government to change the law on data breaches so that companies have a legal requirement to inform individuals when their data has been put at risk by a security breach.

No comments: