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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Data protection act to be reviewed in light of recent data losses.

03 January, 2008
The UK Government is considering proposals for amending the Data Protection Act to make the negligent loss of data through poor procedural practices a criminal offence.
An all party committee of MPs assembled to address the handling and protection of personal data discovered widespread problems and systematic failings in the way public service departments deal with confidential data and revealed that it is likely that other losses will be come to light before procedures have been strengthened.

The outcome of the committee's deliberations relate mostly to enforcement, policing and prosecution rather than procedural issues, commenting instead that the procedures now in place at HMRC should have been there earlier. However, it seems that clearer procedural guidelines should be the first step along with funding to enable them to be put in place. Encryption technology and confidential data discovery techniques are already well established, simple to operate and available from a number of suppliers so implementation should not be an issue providing the funds are in place to achieve this.

Once this background of capability has been established, statutory enforcement can be implemented more effectively. Without processes to enable adequate data protection, enforcement won't result in any protection improvements.

The Data Protection Act came into force 10 years ago and the proposed amendments will take some time to pass through parliament and are set to include changes to section 60 which details the prosecutions and penalties associated with the act. Currently, section 60 limits penalties to fines with the proposed amendments enabling custodial sentences to be brought about.
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