What would anger you more? A few phone calls that were silent when you answered and then went dead or your medical records being leaked online, or left in a skip, or stored on an unencrypted CD that disappears, never to be recovered?
Fair to say it is probably the latter, the type of incidents that regularly force the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to issue fines of anywhere between £70,000 and £375,000 to NHS Trusts, police forces, councils, and the occasional private sector firms.
On many, many occasions it has been argued that while, obviously, no organisation wants to lose money for data protection lapses, the fines on offer are just not high enough to really act as a strong enough incentive to force the issues to the top of the agenda.
This argument took on further merit when communications regulator Ofcom was able to levy a fine of a staggering £750,000 against telecoms firm TalkTalk for making a few nuisance calls.
Ok, not a few, actually 9,000, but while this is no doubt annoying for those affected, it is clearly ridiculous that bugging a few people with some cold calls should land you with a bigger fine than losing personal, sensitive data entrusted by a customers or patient.
No doubt Christopher Graham, huddled in newspaper and warming his hands over a bin of burning debris, watched on in despair as he learnt the folks at Ofcom, in their glass-fronted waterside offices were issuing such a large fine for, by comparison, such a menial offences.
If businesses are to take data protection seriously they are going to have to fear the wrath of the ICO far more. The ability for higher fines – as set out in the draft Data Protection Directive that’s currently being debated, and watered down, in Europe – is a must.
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