Data Centers

Are UK data laws fit for purpose?

CIO Jury: Time for better enforcement

The UK's data protection laws have been branded 'unfit for purpose' in the wake of the loss of CDs containing 25 million records by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

In what is now emerging as the UK's biggest ever data security breach HMRC admitted this week that two CDs containing names, dates of birth, addresses, National Insurance numbers and bank account details of 25 million child benefit recipients have been lost in the post.

Two-thirds of silicon.com's 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel said the breach shows UK data protection laws are currently not strong enough and not fit for purpose.

Nicholas Evans, European IT director for Key Equipment Finance, backed silicon.com's Full Disclosure campaign, which calls for a law forcing public and private sector organisations to inform regulators and customers if personal data has been compromised.

He said: "The Information Commissioner should be given more powers to carry out security audits where they have reason to believe that standards are not being met and there should be the ability to fine organisations to the level that the Financial Services Authority took with some banks recently. It quite simply beggars belief that any system with such sensitive data could have allowed this quantity of data to be extracted, and that any organisation should have sent the data unencrypted on CDs to save money."

Full Disclosure campaign

silicon.com is aiming to make businesses and government take data security more seriously. Read more here.

Current data protection laws are too focused on closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, according to David Supple, head of IT, marketing and creative services for Ecotec.

He said: "This is about achieving strong governance in organisations that have such critical data and about limiting the scope for abuse in the first place."

Mark Beattie, IT director for waste management company LondonWaste, said: "The laws should be targeted at companies with access to substantial amounts of personal data."

The whole HMRC fiasco was simply labelled a "shambles" by Jacques Rene, CTO for Ascend Aerospace.

The breach also highlights the need for the use of better security and encryption technology. Mike Roberts, IT director for independent Harley Street hospital the London Clinic, said: "The use of encryption for the transmission and transportation of information should be tightened up."

Myron Hrycyk, CIO for NYK Logistics UK, added: "People do not understand or appreciate the strength of security required around personal data and the potential dangers of losing this information. Both these factors give rise to the relaxed way data is handled, referring to recent events. This loss of data, if not found, will be with us for years."

Data access and security is an issue for everyone, according to Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director for publisher Hachette Filipacchi UK. He said: "Every organisation has the same concern over access to data - how little security is necessary to enable people to do their jobs? Which must then be weighed up against the potential for breaches in security such as we have seen this week."

A third of the CIO Jury said the problem is not with the laws themselves but the enforcement.

Mark Foulsham, head of IT for eSure, said: "Given that the breach was a failure to adhere to policy and process, the issue is one of policing and enforcement rather than more regulations."

But Ted Woodhouse, consultant and former director of IT strategy for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "The data protection laws are fine - it's HMRC that's not 'fit for purpose'."

Today's CIO Jury was…

Bill Ashworth, IT director for Countrywide Surveyors
Mark Beattie, IT director , LondonWaste
Alastair Behenna, CIO, Harvey Nash
Nicholas Bellenberg, IT director, Hachette Filipacchi UK
Nicholas Evans, European IT director, Key Equipment Finance
Mark Foulsham, head of IT, eSure
Myron Hrycyk, CIO, NYK Logistics UK
Jane Kimberlin, IT director, Domino's Pizza Group
Jacques Rene, CTO, Ascend
Mike Roberts, IT director, The London Clinic
David Supple, head of IT, marketing and creative services, Ecotec
Ted Woodhouse, consultant and ex-director of IT strategy, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury and have your say on the hot issues for IT departments? If you are a CIO, CTO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and you want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at editorial@silicon.com

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