People who obtain and sell personal data illegally should be sent to prison for up to two years, according to a new report by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee that was triggered by the disastrous data breach at TalkTalk.
Information commissioner Christopher Graham said in 2011 that power should be given to magistrates to jail those found guilty of breaching section 55 of the data Protection Act after Barclays employee Sarah Langridge used her position to look up the bank details of a woman accusing her husband of a sex attack.
The report finally acknowledges that such a move would encourage best practice when it comes to data protection.
"We concur with the ICO that, while the implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation will help focus attention on data protection, it would be useful to have a full range of sanctions, including custodial sentences," MPs said.
"We therefore support the ICO's call to bring into force Sections 77 and 78 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which would allow a maximum custodial sentence of two years for those convicted of unlawfully obtaining and selling personal data."
The cross-party committee's inquiry into cyber security also called for the ICO to be given greater powers, including an incentive for organisations to report a data breach without delay. At present the ICO can issue a fixed fine of only £1,000 for failure to report a data breach.
"There should also be scope to levy higher fines if the organisation has not already provided guidance to all customers on how to verify communications," the report said.
Companies and other organisations need to demonstrate how much they spend to improve security and whether the money is spent effectively.
MPs recommended that organisations holding large amounts of personal data should report annually to the ICO on staff cyber awareness training, security auditing, incident management plans, the number of attacks they were aware of, and the proportion of those that were successful.
V3 suggested last week that the UK needs stronger penalties to deter employees taking client records to a new job.
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