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By Stewart Room

The UK will soon be gearing up for its General Election, which must take place before June of next year. Not surprisingly, data security and privacy will be a battleground topic.
On September 21, the Conservative Party, Her Majesty‘s opposition, fired the first salvo in its battle with the government in this area, with the publication of a report titled ‘Reversing the Rise of the Surveillance State—11 Measures to Protect Personal Privacy and Hold Government to Account.’ This report crystallizes the Conservatives‘ plans to dismantle the ID Cards database and the ContactPoint database. These are landmark projects of the government which will result in the collection of personal data on every adult and child, respectively.

Due to the scale and scope of these projects, they are loathed by privacy advocates and the Information Commissioner, with whom the Conservatives have sided. But this is not all. In addition, the Conservatives will build a new legal framework for the regulation of data security breaches. At the heart of this will be a much strengthened Information Commissioner. Prominent within the Conservatives’ plans will be: compulsory annual audits of government bodies by the Information Commissioner; effecting the much-delayed financial penalties regime to punish breaches of the data protection principles; plus a new push towards the creation of best practices for data security, which will require the Information Commissioner in consultation with the private sector to develop a ‘kite mark’ scheme for best practice.

If implemented, these plans will have constitutional significance.

Stewart Room is a partner in the Privacy and Information Law Group at Field Fisher Waterhouse Solicitors. He may be reached at stewart.room@ffw.com.

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