DPA fines – why ICO got it right

Stewart Room writes about the first fines imposed by the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office:

I’ve heard two arguments that are critical of the ICO fines. They go something like this: (1) the fines were too low and (2) it’s wrong of ICO to fine a Local Authority when it didn’t fine Google. Let me try to explain why these arguments are misconceived and why I believe that ICO got it right.

Regarding the level of the fines, the point to remember is that Parliament has determined that ICO must operate within a capped regime of fines, of up to £500,000. The top bracket must therefore be preserved for the worst offenders. Clearly, Herts and A4e behaved badly, but ICO will see much worse and they know it. If ICO had fined at the top of the cap, their decisions would have been vulnerable to legal challenge. ICO has limited ammunition and they need to preserve bullets for future cases.

Read more on Stewart Room.

Robin Wilton of Gartner also blogs about the recent fines.

I agree with Stewart Room that the ICO got it right.  What I especially liked about the selection of the local council is that the fine serves as a powerful warning that it doesn’t have to be a large breach to result in a fine.  A serious breach involving the data of only person can result in heavy penalties if an entity was negligent and very sensitive data are exposed as a result.  And taking n=1 breaches seriously has been a recurring theme on this blog and the mothership, PogoWasRight.org.

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