Watchdog plans data crackdown

The UK's data protection watchdog is to step up enforcement action against companies that flout the Data Protection Act.

The UK's data protection watchdog is to step up enforcement action against companies that  flout the Data Protection Act.

David Smith, the newly appointed deputy information commissioner, said the organisation plans to focus its enforcement efforts on the worst offenders. "Businesses that are not complying will find us turning the screws a bit harder and a bit earlier than we have done until now," he said.

The crackdown would lead to more prosecutions against companies that knowingly break data protection laws, Smith said.

At the same time, the Information Commissioner's Office plans to make it easier for firms to comply with regulations, by issuing simplified guidelines.

Smith plans to work more closely with businesses to ensure the watchdog can address their concerns. He is evaluating plans to set up a stakeholder forum for businesses, which will feed into the work of the Information Commissioner's Office.

"In many areas, guidance is more effective if it is produced by industry bodies rather than the regulator. We will work with them; they know better what their problems are and how to put messages over to their members in a way which is meaningful," he said.

Police methods

Deputy information commissioner David Smith has warned that the police are in danger of moving away from collecting data about suspects in favour of general surveillance of the population. For example, he singled out plans to roll out a network of cameras that recognise car number plates as part of a crackdown on uninsured drivers. Policies for recording DNA samples from the public on a national database, were also cause for unease, Smith said.


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