The recently published Leveson Report into the culture, practices and ethics of the press makes a number of recommendations in relation to data protection legislation. These include:
- narrowing the scope of an exemption in the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA”) which relates to personal data processed for the purposes of journalism;
- clarifying that the right to compensation for distress is not restricted to cases of pecuniary loss but should include compensation for pure distress;
- bringing into force amendments to the DPA which allow for up to two years’ imprisonment for offences of unlawfully obtaining or disclosing personal data;
- extending the prosecution powers of the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) to include any offence which also constitutes a breach of the data protection principles;
- reconstituting the ICO as an Information Commission led by a Board of Commissioners with suitable expertise drawn from regulation, public administration, law and business sectors and possibility including a media representative.
The Report also recommends that the ICO takes immediate steps to:
- adopt a policy on the exercise of its formal regulatory functions in order to ensure that the press complies with the legal requirements of the data protection regime;
- in consultation with industry, issue (within six months of the Leveson Report) comprehensive good practice guidelines and advice on appropriate principles and standards to be observed by the press in the processing of personal data;
- publish advice aimed at individuals concerned that their data has or may have been processed by the press unlawfully or otherwise than in accordance with good practice;
- adopt the Guidelines for Prosecutors on assessing the public interest in cases affecting the media, issued by the Director for Public Prosecutions in September this year.
The ICO has issued a statement in response, confirming that it will publish its view on the detail and practical effects of the proposals early next year.
For further information on the Leveson Report, please click here.