Government Response to Data Sharing Review Report

November 25, 2008

The Government has now published its repsonse to the report prepared by Richard Thomas and Mark Walport on data sharing, which was published in July 2008. The Government proposals will enable the Information Commissioner’s Office to:
• impose monetary penalties on data controllers for deliberate or reckless loss of data
• inspect central government departments and public authorities’ compliance with the Data Protection Act without always requiring prior consent
• require any person, where a warrant is being served, to provide information required to determine compliance with the Data Protection Act
• impose a deadline and location for the provision of information necessary to assess compliance
• publish guidance on when organisations should notify the ICO of breaches of the data protection principles
• publish a statutory data sharing code of practice to provide practical guidance on sharing personal data.

Jack Straw Justice Secretary said:
‘As new technologies have developed, the secure storage and careful sharing of personal information held by both the public and private sectors has become paramount. Strong regulation and clear guidance is essential if we are to ensure the effective protection of personal data. The changes we propose today will strengthen the Information Commissioner’s ability to enforce the Data Protection Act and improve the transparency and accountability of organisations dealing with personal information. This is very important if we are to regain public confidence in the handling and sharing of personal information. ‘The Prime Minister and I are very grateful to Professor Mark Walport and Richard Thomas for all their work on the Review, from which these decisions flow.’

The Government also proposes revising the ICO’s funding structure for its work on data protection to a tiered fee structure based on size of organisation. This will replace the flat rate notification fee which has not changed since its original introduction in 1984. It will better reflect the level of work and provide additional funds for the ICO.

The proposals follow a consultation procedure on the Information Commissioner’s inspection powers and funding following recommendations in the Data Sharing Review. The Ministry of Justice states that legislation will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

For the full text of the Ministry response, click here;  for the Walport/Thomas report, click here