The government's information commissioner Richard Thomas has said he is horrified by the number of banks, government departments, public bodies and other organisations that admitted data breaches in the past year.
He called for business and political leaders to take responsibility for how they collect, process and store personal information, in his annual report published today. Getting it wrong could damage their reputations in the short term and society in the long term, he said.
According to the report, the percentage of individuals who are aware of data protection rights has risen to 82% from 75% last year, and awareness of freedom of information rights was 73%, which was "astonishingly high for a new law", said Thomas.
Thomas, who was recently reappointed until 2009, said the public had made more than 200,000 requests for publicly-held information. Most were successful. In disputes, 75% of the information commissioner's decisions were accepted by both sides without appeal.
However, Thomas said, "Commercial and political pressures to escalate the use of the electronic footprints we leave many times a day become almost irresistible.
"The purposeful, routine and systematic recording of everyone's movements activities and transactions in public and private spaces - a surveillance society - is fast becoming a reality. The dangers are graver still as one system is linked to another. The risks - such as mistaken identity, inaccurate or out-of-date information, judgemental profiling - magnify as information is shared ever-wider."
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