Data protection watchdog targets businesses

Information Commission goes to war on misuse of personal data...

The UK's data protection watchdog has established a new unit to target possible misuse of personal information collected by businesses.

The launch of the Regulatory Action Division (RAD) by the Information Commission comes in the same week the National Consumer Council (NCC) warned that tougher and better policed data protection legislation is needed to deal with the increasing amounts of personal information collected by organisations.

Assistant commissioner David Smith said the unit aims to make life tougher for the "minority" of businesses who flout data protection laws.

"Negotiation will usually be our first option but we won't hesitate to take legal action swiftly against businesses where the circumstances warrant it," he said in a statement.

The RAD will have the powers of criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit against non-compliant organisations.

The NCC claims data protection laws are failing to cope with the amount of personal information collected and used by businesses.

NCC chief executive Ed Mayo said: "'New plans for road pricing using satellite tracking are just the latest example of the rapid advance of the information economy. We are living in a surveillance society but our data protection laws aren't up to the job."