Information Commissioner to review Data Protection Act

The Information Commissioner is to change his advice to employers to help
clarify responsibilities around the Data Protection Act (DPA).

Richard Thomas is to review the codes of practice for employers and simplify
all guidance on dealing with personal data held on staff.

However, he said further clarification was also needed to prevent companies
from hiding behind the DPA as an excuse for other problems. "It is
ridiculous that organisations should hide behind data protection as a
smokescreen for practices that no reasonable person would find

The data protection codes on staff monitoring, medical records, recruitment
and selection and records management will be made clearer and should be
available by the late spring.

Thomas pledged a greater commitment to clear English in all communications
by reducing jargon. There will also be a Data Protection Helpline to offer
speedy advice to employers if they feel a specific data protection situation is
contradicting common sense.

"All the guidance must be as clear as possible and it needs to be fully
understood by a range of audiences," Thomas said.

Last year, the DPA was described as a cumbersome and inelegant piece of
legislation by the Court of Appeal. The issue of personal data remains
controversial following revelations surrounding police and social services
investigations into convicted killer Ian Huntley’s behaviour toward young girls
before his employment as a school caretaker in Soham.

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