On 6 July, the Ministry of Justice issued a Call for Evidence on current data protection legislation.
The MoJ is asking for views on how the European Directive and the Data Protection Act 1998 are working, the impact of data protection on individuals and business, and whether the current powers and penalties of the Information Commissioner could be strengthened. Their Call for Evidence comes ahead of the negotiations on a new EU data protection instrument.
Lord McNally, a Minister of State at the MoJ, said:
'Since these laws were introduced just over a decade ago, the way we live our lives has been radically transformed by the digital revolution. Whether we are shopping online, banking or renewing our passport, we are handing over the keys to our personal information almost daily. We want to gather evidence and views on whether the current data protection laws are working in light of social and technological changes since the mid-1990s. As individuals, citizens and consumers, we have the right to know our data is properly protected, and the Government is keen to gather evidence about how helpful the existing legislation is, as well as ideas on how the current data protection regime can be improved.
This Government is committed to protecting civil liberties and personal privacy, and we want to make sure that current laws do not allow unreasonable intrusions into people's lives – while balancing this with the need to ensure the laws are not placing undue burdens on business and other organisations that collect personal data.'
The Call for Evidence will allow individuals, private organisations, charities and public authorities to outline their views on the current laws on data protection. This information will then be assessed and used to inform the UK's position in negotiations on a new EU instrument for data protection, which are expected to begin in early 2011.
The Call for Evidence lasts for three months and is due to close on 6 October 2010.
At the same time as launching this Call for Evidence, the Government has published a provisional post implementation review impact assessment of the Data Protection Act 1998, on which it would also welcome comments. This impact assessment complements the Call for Evidence and publication of a full impact assessment is planned for the end of 2010.
The Call for Evidence is not a formal consultation, but an evidence gathering exercise. It looks at several specific areas, including: definitions under the DPA; data subjects' rights; obligations on data controllers; powers and penalties of the Information Commissioner; the principles-based approach taken by both the Directive and the DPA; exemptions under the Act; and international transfer of data.
All the relevant documents can be accessed here