24.12.03

Data Protection in the Dock

Pressure is being put on the Government to review Data Protection regulation following the atrocious interpretation of the rules that allowed vital information on Ian Huntley to be deleted and caused the tragic death of two pensioners after their gas was cut off.

Whether British Gas used the Data Protection Act provisions as a cynical excuse or whether Humberside Police did not understand how to interpret data protection guidelines, something radical needs to change.

Why is it that we still get cold-called, spammed and inundated with unsolicited communication on the one hand but cannot seem to make intelligent use of crucial data on the other? It would appear that the data protection guidelines are not properly understood or being properly implemented where it counts.

The protection of our personal data should be to protect our civil liberties, privacy and safety. In interpreting the provisions of the Data Protection Act and its accompanying guidelines one should have regard to the intent behind the letter of the law. Humberside Police and British Gas seem to have got that one tragically wrong. So whether it be through a revision to legislation - which the Government this week said it was reluctant to do - or some serious schooling in how to apply existing law, the need for some swift action is compelling.

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