The UK information commissioner has called for those convicted of illegally selling and buying personal information to be jailed for up to two years.
The call came from information commissioner Richard Thomas, who presented a report to parliament this week on the growing illegal sale of personal information.
One of the tasks of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is to deal with the problem of public sector employees selling on the personal data of citizens they come into contact with.
The ICO report also said that public authorities might be unwittingly encouraging the growth in the sale of illegally gained personal information as a result of using debt collection agencies and private investigators to hunt down debtors.
Thomas said that current penalties for those caught illegally obtaining personal information were too low, and that a two-year sentence for such crimes could prove a deterrent.
Thomas plans to publish a follow-up report in six months’ time to record responses to this week’s report, and to give parliament an update on how the problem is being tackled.