PL&B UK E-news, Issue 51

1. ICO prosecutes Liverpool City Council

Following a prosecution by the Information Commissioner (ICO), Liverpool City Council has agreed to be audited by ICO staff. This is the first prosecution brought by the ICO for failure to comply with an Information Notice, and a powerful reminder of the fact that it is a criminal offence to ignore Information Notices served by the ICO.

The case involved a subject access request made by a former Liverpool City Council employee. While the council did provide some information to the employee, some sensitive health data was missing. Having received a complaint, the ICO tried to contact the council several times by letter and telephone. As an Information Notice was also ignored, the ICO had to resort to court action.

The District Judge at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court concluded the case yesterday by stating that the council had shown an ‘appalling breakdown of communication’ and ‘a clear lack of compliance’ with the Data Protection Act 1998. The council was fined £300. No application for costs was made.

2. ICO names and shames media that buy personal data

Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner (ICO) revealed yesterday that 31 UK magazines and newspapers have bought illegally obtained personal data for their journalistic purposes. The evidence was found during a raid at private investigator’s premises in Hampshire in 2002. The Commissioner has now decided to release the information following a Freedom of Information Act request.

The list, included in the ICO’s report to Parliament, What Price Privacy Now?, includes the following publications: Daily Mail, Sunday People, Daily Mirror, Mail on Sunday, News of the World, Sunday Mirror, Best Magazine, Evening Standard, The Observer, Daily Sport, Sunday Times, The People, Daily Express, Weekend Magazine (Daily Mail), Sunday Express, The Sun, Closer Magazine, Sunday Sport, Night and Day (Mail on Sunday), Sunday Business News, Daily Record, Saturday (Express), Sunday Mirror Magazine, Real Magazine, Woman’s Own, Daily Mirror Magazine, Mail in Ireland, Daily Star, Marie Claire, Personal Magazine and Sunday World.

Richard Thomas said: ‘I repeat my call for a two year jail term to deter those convicted of trading unlawfully in personal information and I am very encouraged that the government has consulted publicly on this. The Identity Cards Act 2006 provides the blueprint with a two year custodial sentence for those unlawfully disclosing information. The same deterrent is needed to protect far more sensitive information such as bank accounts, phone bills and health and
criminal records.’

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Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2006