ICO publishes Code of Practice for data protection

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has launched a guide which is accessible online in order to define the rules that businesses and organisations should follow to ensure that data is properly protected.

Although the Personal Information Online Code of Practice is largely aimed at businesses, it also contains information that is useful for consumers who need advice as to the way in which their details will be used by various online services.

The ICO’s Christopher Graham said that consumer confidence could only be guaranteed if businesses were willing to adhere to data protection advice and also warned that fines would be incurred by firms that failed to properly secure the data for which they have responsibility.

Mr Graham spoke out against the unnecessary harvesting of user data, as well as its misuse in subsequent marketing and publicity which could diminish the trust in a relationship between a business and its customers.

The ICO believes that consumers have a part to play in protecting their personal data. They are encouraged to read the privacy policy for individual businesses and alter any settings to ensure that their details are secure. Limiting the amount of information which is made available online is also a suggested step.

Data security expert Stewart Room said that he was encouraged by the ICO’s new guidelines, particularly in relation to the way in which businesses were being made aware of the legal requirements that govern the handling of private data.

Mr Room said that although the guide is not all-encompassing, it is easy to comprehend and should provide businesses with the right information to help them comply with ICO regulations.

Mr Room believes that the ICO should be given greater powers to enforce proper data protection policy within businesses and organisations around the UK. In his opinion this should include statutory provisions rendering the reporting of data loss a mandatory requirement.

At the moment the ICO has the ability to fine firms up to half a million pounds for data loss, but some believe that unlimited fines would represent a far more significant deterrent.

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