UK data loss prevention measures are insufficient says EU watchdog

The private data of millions of people in the UK is inadequately protected and the government needs to do more in order to ensure that its integrity is not compromised, according to a new report from the European Commission (EC).

The EC has said that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) still lacks the powers that are necessary to tackle the serious issues surrounding data protection and security and it has called on the government to instigate the necessary legislative changes to ensure that this is rectified.

The EC has given the government a two month grace period in which it must ensure that there is full compliance with European law on data protection.

There needs to be greater transparency in the operation of bodies such as the ICO, according to the EC’s Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. He wants data protection laws enforced in the UK with no ambiguity whatsoever in order to ensure that the universal right to data privacy is upheld in both the public and private sectors.

Mr Reding described the ICO as a guard dog that is kept locked in a cellar, effectively rendering it impotent and thus of little or no consequence to those who would fail to protect data.

The EC said that it would like to change the UK rules which deny people the right to the amendment or deletion of personal information and it would also require that any random checks made by the ICO could be used to hand out penalties for non-compliance with data protection legislation.

The ICO said that it was looking forward to working with the EC in order to appropriately address its concerns with the state of data protection in the UK.

If the UK government fails to satisfy the EC, the next stage could see it being brought before the Court of Justice, whereafter further steps might be taken.

The ICO has been seeking new powers after a series of high profile data loss cases damaged public confidence in current security practices. However, a lack of political backing has compromised its efforts it in the eyes of some observers, with even recent changes to its abilities to impose penalties being seen as somewhat token.

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