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ICO gets right to spot check government departments in wake of HMRC privacy catastrophe

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas today welcomed the prime minister's announcement that the Information Commissioner's Office would in future have the right to run spot checks on government departments to check compliance with the Data Protection Act.

Thomas also called on the government to make it a criminal offence for massive data breaches, such as the recent loss of personal details of 25 million people on the HM Revenue & Customs child benefits system.

Thomas said, "We will work with the Ministry of Justice to confirm the detail of this announcement. It is essential that we are properly resourced to carry out this new function.

"It is also important that the law is changed to make security breaches of this magnitude a criminal offence. At the moment I can take limited enforcement action, but making this a criminal offence would serve as a strong deterrent and would send a very strong signal that it is completely unacceptable to be cavalier with people's personal information."

Thomas and Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, are to review the UK's framework to ensure the security of personal data. This review will look at government departments and other organisations.





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