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ICO demands more power as data complaints hit record high

Requests more power and more independence
Tue Jul 15 2014, 12:45

THE UK INFORMATION COMMISSIONER has complained that his job is getting harder and spoke up about how many complaints his organisation has to handle with limited powers and resources.

Information commissioner Christopher Graham said that the way that companies use and treat danger is changing, adding that the public should be able to trust and rely on the organisations that police it.

"Facebook,, Google: it is clear that organisations' use of data is getting ever more complicated. People need to know someone is watching over their information," he said.

"That needs to be someone who's independent, of government and business, so the public know the regulator can be trusted. Sometimes the state is itself the issue. When the intelligence and security committee wanted to know how the Snowden revelations fitted with data protection law, it was the information commissioner they turned to."

Graham said that during the last year the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) got more "serious" complaints about outfits than ever before, but added that it needs more powers and the ability to deal with the most serious issues.

"The last twelve months have been a record year.... A strong regulator is needed if a data breach affects millions of people," he said.

"That someone is the Information Commissioner. We're effective, efficient and busier than ever. But to do our job properly, to represent people properly, we need stronger powers, more sustainable funding and a clearer guarantee of independence."

Graham was talking at the introduction of the ICO's annual report, a document that reports that the ICO helpline drew some 260,000 calls and "resolved" 15,500 data protection complaints, which is around 10 percent higher than last year.

The report asks for a number of things, starting with "more powers" and including the "risk of prison" for those who steal personal data.

"In order to be an effective partner in delivering modern and innovative services, the ICO needs stronger powers, a more sustainable funding system, and a clearer guarantee of independence," added Graham.

"We need to be able to audit any and all data controllers and public authorities for compliance with information rights laws. People who steal others' personal information need to face the prospect of a prison sentence."

In the last year, the ICO dished out £1.97m worth in monetary penalties, with around a quarter of that coming from marketing spam and text companies.

The report hints at other work, and new threats, including an investigation into internet connected televisions that gather viewing habits information.

"We are in contact with a television manufacturer to address concerns that information on viewing habits is being collected through internet connected televisions even though privacy settings have been turned on."

An investigation into LG and its Smart Ad-enabled televisions was revealed last year. µ


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