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Data regulator calls for “stronger powers” following record number of complaints

Tue 15 Jul 2014

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the UK’s data regulator, has called for new powers to conduct spot checks on companies ahead of the release of its annual report. Unannounced audit and investigation, it claims, will ensure personal information kept by UK firms and public bodies is being properly handled.

The data watchdog has seen a record number of reported breach cases and claims that £1.97m has been issued in penalties over the past year. It has reportedly resolved 15,492 data protection complaints over the last financial year, which equates to a 10% rise on the previous 12 months. The ICO also witnessed a 15% increase in calls to its advice helpline over this same period.

At the launch of the report, which is expected later today, Information Commissioner Christopher Graham is to say: “Facebook, [NHS] care data, Google: it is clear that organisations’ use of data is getting ever more complicated. People need to know someone is watching over their information.

“Independence means someone who’s got the resources to take on this ever-growing number of cases. The last 12 months have been a record year – more complaints resolved than ever, more enforcement action taken and more advice given through our helpline.

“And it also means having the powers to act on the more serious complaints. A strong regulator is needed if a data breach affects millions of people.

“To do our job properly, to represent people properly, we need stronger powers, more sustainable funding, and a clearer guarantee of independence.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Graham also referred to his need for new powers as “the General de Gaulle principle that uncertainty is an important part of deterrence – the Information Commissioner might come calling […] I think that we ought to be able to carry out audits – not just asking nicely and ‘Please can we come in?’ but to have a right to do that.”

Previously accused of being too lenient by privacy campaigners, this call for increased funding and investigative powers will allow tighter control and inspection by the ICO.

BBC Technology: Record number of data complaints made to ICO 

The Courier: Data watchdog seeks audits powers

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