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Privacy laws are not fit for purpose

Equality and Human Rights Commission calls for radical rewrites
Mon Aug 15 2011, 11:57

PRIVACY LAWS in the UK do not do enough to protect citizens against abuse, says a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

This is because current privacy laws have failed and will continue to fail to stop breaches of personal data privacy, according to the commission, and have fallen behind the pace of technology and personal data collection.

"It's important that the government and its agencies have the information they need about us to do their job, for example to fight crime, or protect our health. However, the state is holding increasing amounts of information about our lives without us knowing, being able to check that it's accurate or being able to challenge this effectively," said Geraldine Van Bueren, a commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

"This needs to change so that any need for personal information has to be clearly justified by the organisation that wants it. The law and regulatory framework needs to be simplified and in the meantime public authorities need to check what data they have and that it complies with the existing laws."

The commission is expecting that the Government will heed its warnings and bring in changes that will better protect personal information. This is perhaps not too much of a leap, especially if some clever wag was to put it to them, "It would perhaps be wise, Sir, if we were to give ourselves more control over personal information."

Currently the way that data is handled is "deeply flawed", according to the commission, and as a result it is difficult for citizens to assess what information might be held about them, by whom and why.

The fact that so much data is intangible means that it is hard for individuals to find out where there are errors about them and, if there are, how they should challenge them. Individuals, added the commission, are also lacking in knowledge about how to challenge breaches, or indeed when such a breach has occurred.

The commission added that breaches of privacy are only likely to worsen, and recommended the piecemeal reform of any relevant laws in the area.

This, in an ideal world. would mean that current legislation is streamlined, that any bodies that hold information justify their need for it, and that any requests that these bodies make for further information is actually warranted and is proportionate and justified. µ

 

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