PL&B UK E-news, Issue 52

1. Government wants to relax existing data sharing laws

A seminar organised yesterday,15th January, by the Prime Minister discussed relaxing the existing data sharing rules, which in the Government’s view are an obstacle to improving public services. The Prime Minister’s policy reviews suggests that the current privacy procedures and working practices sometimes force people to submit the same information multiple times to different Government agencies.

However, the Information Commissioner (ICO) has said that the Data Protection Act already allows for detailed data sharing, and that the idea of creating a super-database would mean increased risks to individuals’ privacy. In its study ‘Surveillance Society’ from last November, the ICO stressed that relaxing data protection rules could result in excessive surveillance and data-sharing, and loss of public trust and confidence in the Government. The risks vary from inaccurate or insecure information to mistaken identities.

The PM launched yesterday a Citizens' Panel that will be asked whether it would be in favour of relaxing the current data sharing laws. The panel, consisting of one hundred members of the general public, will be asked about the level of customer care they expect from public services, and what kind of "trade-offs" they would accept. The panel will present its findings to the Cabinet in early March.

2. Accountancy firm fined for data protection offence

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has successfully prosecuted an accountant for a notification offence. Abdul Ghafoor of Yorkshire Business Management was convicted following a trial and fined £350, and ordered to pay £500 costs by Bingley Magistrates’ Court in West Yorkshire.

Yorkshire Business Management had failed to notify even after the ICO posted the relevant forms to them. Abdul Ghafoor of Yorkshire Business Management pleaded not guilty and has still not notified.

Philip Taylor, solicitor at the Information Commissioner’s Office, said: “This successful prosecution is a reminder to those organisations that are failing to notify that we stand ready to use our powers to prosecute the small minority of businesses that flout the Act. Compliance ensures that individuals’ personal information is secure, accurate, up-to-date and is processed fairly.”

This case was a result of checks by ICO investigators in the accountancy sector.

For further details on the Privacy Laws & Business UK Newsletter, please click here.

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