It starts with a name, an address and so it goes on… where would any of us be without our clients and their data? We must ask a certain number of personal questions in order to benefit all. Good information handling provides an invaluable range of benefits but, just as importantly, it also ensures that we comply with the 1998 Data Protection Act.
Strict guidelines exist outlining how information is retained. Abuse, or non-compliance, is a criminal offence and the Information Commissioner can take enforcement action against guilty parties, which includes issuing fines of up to £5,000. The Commissioner also has the power to issue penalties up to £500,000, in cases where a breach of the DPA is ‘likely to cause substantial damage or distress.’
So how is it then that the Government is considering proposals to allow the sale of data held by HM Revenue & Customs to private companies? MP’s have described it as ‘borderline insane’ and various watch groups have criticised the plans, but the Chancellor ploughs on.
Protection against data fraud is a huge Insurance growth area and a constant headache for banks and financial institutions. Both companies and individuals continue to be vulnerable as the criminal element find ever more inventive ways to infiltrate the latest developments in security and protection. So, how can the authorities be allowed to sell their files to the highest bidder? And why is this not a breach of the DPA?
It is difficult to see how this is for the ‘wider public benefit’ as Osborne claims. The same public, when asked, definitely opposed the plans. Will this cause more headaches for industry? And will the general public become more guarded when asked important questions, making all our jobs more difficult?