ICO seeks powers to seize assets

The ICO says it should be granted the power to seize assets and cash, and undertake financial investigations, including search and seizure warrants. The regulator argues that these powers are essential as personal data has a monetary value and is increasingly being recognised and treated as a commodity which is stolen and traded for financial gain. The powers could be granted to the ICO under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA), and the ICO has now put its proposals to a public consultation.

‘The General Data Protection Regulation (GPDR) has introduced increased financial penalties for civil breaches of the Data Protection Act 2018 (DP Act 18). Criminal offences under the DP Act 18 are now recordable. However, the only sanction available to the courts following a criminal conviction is a fine, which in some cases will be much less than the financial gains made by the offender. This will inevitably lead to a greater disparity between the deterrent and punitive effects of sanctions imposed in relation to civil breaches and criminal offences,’ the ICO says.

POCA investigation and other associated powers would enable the ICO to assist the court in the identification of assets and to determine the value of a criminal’s proceeds from crime. The ICO has previously worked in partnership with other agencies which conducted financial investigations on its behalf and assisted the courts with these cases. To date the ICO has prosecuted and convicted several individuals who were later stripped of assets by the courts using POCA confiscation powers. However, these partner agencies are no longer able to provide assistance, it says.

The powers the ICO is seeking are:

  • To apply to the court for Restraint Orders (under Part 2 of POCA);
  • To apply to the court for Confiscation Orders (under Part 2 of POCA);
  • Cash seizure, detention and forfeiture from premises (under Part 5, Chapter 3 of POCA);
  • Asset seizure and forfeiture from premises (under Part 5, Chapter 3A of POCA);
  • To undertake investigations (including search and seizure warrants) to support the proceedings sought above (under Part 8 of POCA); and
  • Access to information relevant to the investigation of money laundering offences.

This consultation closes on 6 December 2019. See ICO call for views on the application for powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act.