New measures to clear up data protection confusion

Measures to prevent organisations using the Data Protection Act
1998 as “an excuse for their own shortcomings” were announced by
the information commissioner Richard Thomas last month.

The measures include strengthening the data protection helpline
to support organisations which have problems interpreting the act,
developing more practical and user-friendly guidance and a
commitment to using plain English in all communications on data

Thomas added that the data protection principles were “largely
matters of common sense and fairness but data protection can never
be a set of detailed do’s and don’ts”.

The move follows claims by Humberside police following the
conviction of Ian Huntley for the Soham murders that it had deleted
details of allegations about him inn order to comply with the act.
And British Gas said the act had prevented the company informing
social services when it disconnected the gas supply of an older
couple who were later found dead.

Meanwhile, the Scottish executive has announced that it wants
employers to pass details to it of anyone they have ever sacked for
misconduct towards children. Names are to be added to the list of
persons unsuitable to work with children, which was announced in
February last year under the Child Protection Act 2003 and will
come into force soon.  Retrospective inclusion on the list will
immediately prevent a person from working with children.

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