ICO urges gov't to retain data-theft laws

Summary:The watchdog has warned it is vital the government resists pressure to water down laws that could jail people selling stolen personal details

The UK's information watchdog has issued a stark warning to the government not to water down laws that could jail people selling stolen personal details.

Pressure is building on parliament to quash part of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill that would mean those buying or selling data would face prison (clause 76).

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has said it is vital the government resists pressure to withdraw clause 76 as the bill passes through Parliament.

Information commissioner Richard Thomas said responsible media should not fear that the legislation would block the release of information in the public interest.

An ICO spokesman said: "We want to deter people from the illegal buying and selling of data."

Thomas said in a statement: "There has been widespread support for the government's decision to strengthen the law and — if data protection is to be taken seriously — it is vital the government and other parties should stand firm against any possible amendments.

"If there is a change of heart on legislation aimed at deliberate security breaches, the government will find it hard to convince people that measures aimed at preventing data loss need to be taken seriously."

The ICO has already called for reckless data loss to be made a criminal offence.

Recent reports of government data losses include the loss of three laptops by the Ministry of Defence containing personal details of 600,000 recruits, the NHS losing hundreds of thousands of patients' records, and HMRC's loss of 25 million child-benefit recipients' details.

Topics: Security

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Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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