The government is still no nearer to publishing the new Data Protection Bill - expected to be made public over two months ago - according to the Data Protection Registrar.
The Bill will house the UK?s interpretation of the EU Data Protection Directive (No.95/46) and must be implemented into UK law by 24 October 1998. The Directive is designed to ensure that there are common standards protecting personal data within the single market.
Responding to rumours that the bill may be published in mid-January, deputy data protection registrar Francis Aldhouse said: ?That date is as good as any but it is not definite at this stage.? A spokesman for the Home Office was similarly unable to name a publication date or give any reason for the delay.
The new Bill will build on the original 1984 Data Protection Act, with the main change being the inclusion of written or manual data. Under present law individuals are only able to see computerised information about themselves.
But the exact nature of the written information is still in question. According to Aldhouse, only highly structured information such as card indexes and microfiches should fall into the scope of the legislation.
But Angela Edward, Institute for Personnel and Development (IPD) policy advisor, believes that all written information should be available: "Informal records are more likely to be inaccurate. They are rarely checked and verified in the same way that formal records are.?
According to Edward it makes good business sense to clear out old files. She said: ?Employers who use out-of-date or inaccurate information to make decisions about training, promotion or career development risk making expensive mistakes.?
The new Bill will give individuals greater power in the courts to prosecute companies refusing to reveal information held on them. Edward warned: ?Employers should not keep anything that they may not be able to verify or justify. If you don?t want your employees to see it then you shouldn?t keep it.?
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