The Information Commissioner is determined to stop the illegal trade in personal information.
He has attached great weight to clause 76 – increasing the penalties for the existing criminal offence immediately – and would of course prefer to see it remain in the Bill. But he recognises that the first New Clause will still allow the Secretary of State to increase the penalties for the data protection offences of disclosing, obtaining or procuring information without consent. Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998 means that this has been a criminal offence for many years, but has only attracted derisory penalties. The Commissioner’s 2006 report “What Price Privacy?” exposed a hidden, pernicious and extensive trade in personal information which damages individuals, the organisations from which data is obtained and society at large. Personal data at risk includes financial, medical, and police records. The New Clause sends a strong signal that this conduct is unacceptable. The Commissioner hopes that this will act as a real deterrent to any sectors still contemplating illegal access to personal data. He will press hard for immediate implementation if the practices persist.
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