Privacy watchdog welcomes tough data laws

The Information Commissioner's Office has warmly embraced the introduction of the Criminal Justice Bill, which will give it the power to issue heavy fines to organisations for deliberate or reckless breaches of the Data Protection Act.

The Government's privacy watchdog has welcomed the introduction of the Criminal Justice Bill, which will give it tough new powers to fine businesses that breach the Data Protection Act.

The bill, which received Royal Assent on Friday, will give the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) the power to impose substantial fines on organisations that deliberately or recklessly breach data protection laws.

"This new power will enable some of the worst breaches of the Data Protection Act to be punished," said David Smith, deputy information commissioner. "This change in the law sends a very clear signal that data protection must be a priority and that it is completely unacceptable to be cavalier with people's personal information."

He added: "The prospect of substantial fines for deliberate or reckless breaches of the Data Protection Principles will act as a strong deterrent and help ensure that organisations take their data protection obligations more seriously."

The ICO has called repeatedly for greater powers, a wish which finally seems to have come true. "We are very happy with what we've got," a spokesperson for the ICO told SCMagazine.

Though the Bill has received Royal Assent, the greater powers are yet to come into force. The date from which they apply plus the level of fines which can be levied are yet to be decided.

Sign up to our newsletters