UK information commissioner Christopher Graham has said in testimony to the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport that parliament, the courts and journalists are hampering efforts to protect personal data.
Graham said that an investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office had found evidence of requests by over 300 journalists for more than 17,000 searches into private data in 2006, but that parliament had still not addressed the issue.
"We were let down by the courts, which did not seem to be interested in levying even the pathetic fines they had at their disposal," he said, according to a report in The Guardian.
"We were rather let down by parliament in the end with no legislation, and we were let down by the newspaper groups which did not take it seriously."
Graham recommended that the penalties for breaching the Data Protection Act should be increased to include jail terms for serious offenders. This would end much of the abuse "at a stroke", he said.
Also up before the committee were members of the Metropolitan Police who had investigated past claims of data protection breaches.
Assistant commissioner John Yates defended the limited scale of the police investigation into allegations that the News of the World hacked into mobile phones owned by members of the royal family.
Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, asked Yates: "Doesn't it look suspicious that [private investigator Glenn] Mulcaire and [News of the World royal editor Clive] Goodman may have been tapping royal princes' phones, and committed a serious crime that undermined their own reputations and that of their employers, and their employers give them a undisclosed pay-off and no one has gone back to them and asked what that financial arrangement is about? "
Yates replied: "It is not our business."
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