Information commissioner Christopher Graham is to draft a letter to local government chiefs warning them to take data security measures more seriously in an effort to clamp down on poor data handling within councils.
In an exclusive interview with V3, Graham said he is meeting with the new head of the civil service, Robert Kerslake, to draft the letter together because local authorities are, "so bad at data protection".
"We will write a joint letter to local government to tell them how important data security is," said Graham.
"We also want to do non-consensual audits for the NHS and local government, as this is where the problem appears to be."
Graham said the letter to local government will take a similar tone to the one he wrote with NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson to data protection officers (DPOs) in the health sector last year.
The letter alerted the DPOs that the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is prepared to fine organisations using powers it gained in April 2010 to crack down on poor data protection practice and policies.
"The coming of civil monetary penalties was a wake-up call to all data controllers as they suddenly realised data protection wasn't all talk," Graham told V3.
"The penalty has a resonance way beyond just the fine, as it has a hit to the brand, and it will do the local authority no good at all."
Graham said local authorities should understand that good data practices have benefits beyond avoiding fines and are the foundation for building shared services.
"If they don't get the basics right then there is no confidence in even the most imaginative idea," he added.
The ICO has issued ten fines to date and the majority of these have been to local authorities, including one of £140,000 issued on Monday to Midlothian Council.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is currently assessing whether to give the ICO power to conduct non-consensual audits after a request submitted by the data watchdog.
"It's bizarre the ICO does not have the right to inspect these organisations without us going to court. It doesn't have to be scary. Most organisations will benefit as then they will have a type of ICO seal of approval," added Graham.
"The MOJ are soon to make a decision."
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