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New Commissioner to expose bad practice

Christopher Graham – who took over the Information Commissioner’s job in June – knows all about the value of brand and reputation. After all, in his previous job at the Advertising Standards Authority he had very little sanction apart from “naming and shaming” the advertising code breakers. Not surprising then that he plans to extend the impact of the Office’s enforcement activity by using the potential for reputational damage as one of his weapons.

Graham gave notice of this and his other early observations in the job when speaking to the
8th Annual Data Protection Compliance Conference this month. He clearly feels some frustration at being seen as a “toothless bulldog” and is keen for new powers and better penalties. He pointed out that the current derisory level of fines (£5,000) was no deterrent to blaggers making hundreds of thousands from the illegal data trade.

He is also concerned that a combination of recession (for the commercial sector) and political upheaval (for the public sector) may mean that compliance with data protection legislation is regarded as a luxury rather than a necessity.

He has a vision for 2012 that the Office will be the “authoritative arbiter of information rights” and an effective regulator of both data protection and freedom of information. With an estimated £16m in extra notification revenue he will have more cash to achieve this. More action (and certainly more publicity) is bound to follow.

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