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The Privacy Advisor | UK government consults on tough penalties for the misuse of personal data Related reading: Takeaways from the first review of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield



By Eduardo Ustaran

The UK Government has launched a public consultation on whether to introduce prison sentences for those found guilty of offences related to obtaining, disclosing, or selling personal data.

The consultation paper “Knowing or Reckless Misuse of Personal Data: Introducing Custodial Sentences” proposes increasing the current maximum penalty from a fine to up to two years’ imprisonment. The proposed new measure could see those convicted imprisoned for up to two years if the case is heard in the Crown Court, and up to 12 months if heard in the magistrates’ court. The courts will also be able to impose community sentences and fines if appropriate.

The consultation will also look at whether a defence should be introduced for those acting for the purposes of journalism, art, or literature with a view to publishing such material in the reasonable belief that the obtaining, disclosing, or selling of the information is in the public interest.

Eduardo Ustaran is head of the Privacy and Information Law Group at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, based in London. He is a member of the IAPP Education Advisory Board, co-chair of Knowledge-Net London, editor of Data Protection Law & Policy and co-author of E-Privacy and Online Data Protection. He may be reached at


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