Information Commissioner calls for public commitment to data protection

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is marking European Data Protection Day today with a campaign aimed at getting UK organisations to commit to better protection of personal data.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is marking European Data Protection Day today with a campaign aimed at getting UK organisations to commit to better protection of personal data.

Businesses, charities and public sector bodies signing the Personal Information Promise will send a strong signal to staff and customers that personal details will be handled and protected properly, the ICO said.

Organisations that have signed up to the ICO promise include Royal Mail, NHS Information Centre, British Gas, BT, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

The promise is intended to help strengthen public trust and confidence in the way organisations handle their personal information, the ICO said.

The promise does not create additional legal obligations, but is a public commitment by organisations to put measures in place to comply with the Data Protection Act.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said organisations are waking up to the fact that privacy is now so significant that lapses risk damaging reputations and bottom lines.

"I urge all CEOs and their executive teams to take personal responsibility for treating data protection as a corporate governance issue affecting the whole organisation," he said.

Accountability will be one of the watchwords for 2009, said Paula Barrett, partner at international law firm Eversheds.

"With the public embarrassment of HMRC, and most recently the Home Office, together with household brands in the retail and finance sectors, questions are now being asked by chief officers and executives in the boardroom too," she said.

Signing up to the promise might prove to be a useful tool for organisations that can take the high ground to engender trust, Barrett said.

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