Privacy tsar to fine firms recklessly losing data

ICO gets more cash and tougher powers

ICO gets more cash and tougher powers

Whitehall will lay bare its handling of public data under plans to supercharge the office of the UK privacy tsar.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) will gain powers to fine companies that recklessly lose data and to conduct unannounced spot checks on central government and public authorities, under proposals set out by the Ministry of Justice yesterday.

The department will also get a cash injection, expected to increase its funding to £18m per year, by charging higher fees to larger companies among the UK's 300,000 public and private sector data controlling bodies.

The MoJ proposals also allow the ICO to demand information to determine Data Protection Act (DPA) compliance in cases where a warrant has been served and to set a deadline for organisations to provide information to establish DPA compliance.

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The ICO welcomed the changes but said it was disappointed that the overhaul, due to face a parliamentary vote shortly, did not go further and allow it to carry out unannounced inspections of companies to determine their DPA compliance.

Deputy information commissioner David Smith said in a statement: "Protecting people's personal details has never been more important and these new powers send a strong message that data protection must be taken seriously.

"The commitment to increase the resources available to the ICO through the introduction of tiered notification fees should help enable us to carry out our extended duties properly."