Experts criticise lax UK data privacy regulations

The adequacy of laws protecting the privacy of data in the UK have been brought into question by experts at a conference, with the implication being that other European nations have tougher regulations and better levels of data privacy.

The exponential and perpetual increase in the volume of private data being stored by businesses and organisations of all types is leading to growing concern amongst data protection specialists and privacy campaigners. The Fine Balance 2010 conference which took place last week saw criticism levelled at the way in which the UK manages data.

Various key figures from the UK were present, including representatives from the NHS and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). In previous years the event has dealt with high profile data losses, but in 2010 it has examined whether current regulations are capable of ensuring adequate protection for sensitive data.

Various experts from both technical and legal disciplines spoke about the UK’s perceived lack of consistency when it comes to protecting private data, which many believe to compare poorly with other countries in the EU.

The coalition government’s removal of ID Cards received a positive response from data security expert Tony Dyhouse. However, Mr Dyhouse was sceptical as to whether the ICO had been given enough power to adequately tackle the threats to private data, whether it be a lack of culpability amongst businesses or an uninformed public.

Privacy campaigner Simon Davies highlighted what he believed to be the ICO’s lack of authority by pointing to the recent data harvesting carried out by Google via its Street View vehicles, which led to heavy repercussions from its contemporaries in Germany, France and elsewhere in Europe. The ICO decided to cancel a formal investigation into the matter because Google said that the collection had occurred accidentally.

Mr Davies said that after talking to an anonymous Google engineer he is convinced that the likelihood of the data being captured over an extended period without Google’s knowledge is extremely low.

The ICO’s Jonathan Bamford took a different stance at the conference, saying that a greater degree of responsibility for data security must be accepted by the individual.

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