The Information Commissioner is looking for courts to impose harsher penalties on businesses that breach data protection regulations, and to make compliance with the law more straightforward.
Launching his annual report, Richard Thomas, Information Commissioner, said that he wanted courts to impose harsher sentences on organisations that deliberately flouted data protection laws.
"I'd like to see stronger penalties. The courts have the powers," he said.
In the last year, the highest fine imposed by the courts was £3,000, against the London Borough of Islington.
In autumn the Information Commission will launch a public consultation programme seeking views on what data collection and storage should be acceptable.
"I want to make it easier to protect personal information in practice," said Thomas.
The commissioner also intends to lobby Parliament to introduce secondary legislation to ease the burden on business. This would allow the commissioner to ease some of the administrative burden of data protection legislation, without requiring changes in the Data Protection Act itself.
Thomas said that much of his focus would be on the public sector, where a large quantity of potentially sensitive information was routinely collected.
But he said he also had concerns about the private sector, including credit reference agencies and how they obtained personal information. Other concerns included how airlines would cope with requests from US and other governments for more access to passenger information.
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