The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has criticised a proposed amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill which would see the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) given more intrusive powers to search private sector businesses.
The amendment, which could be approved by a Lords committee on Monday, reversed the government's previous stance of requiring the ICO to apply to the courts to secure a search warrant for any firms suspected of breaching the Data Protection Act (DPA).
"The CBI has a problem with this. If the ICO suspects a breach of the DPA it already has the ability to obtain a warrant, and if it doesn't suspect, then why should it be given spot check powers?" said Sara Draper, head of knowledge economy at the CBI.
"In the current recession, burdens like this are unwelcome, especially when there has been no consultation [over the amendment]."
Draper called for the ICO to publicly disclose why it believes its current powers to search businesses are insufficient, and to back up its assertion with hard statistics.
For its part, the ICO said the proposed new powers would be useful because in some cases where the watchdog believes there are problems, but has "no cast iron proof", obtaining a court warrant would not be appropriate.
"We want these powers to facilitate better information handling and compliance," said an ICO spokesman. "This is about all organisations taking privacy seriously and treating it as part of corporate governance."
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