ICO publishes Annual Report

On 20 June 2013, the ICO launched its annual report, containing details of its activities and financial statements between April 2012 and March 2013. This year’s report is entitled ‘Independent, authoritative, forward looking’.

The ICO describes its approach by reference to the ‘Five Es’: enforce, educate, empower, enable and engage.

Some statistics on caseloads and enforcement action in the areas of data protection, freedom of information and privacy and electronic communications (primarily marketing) are set out below.

Amongst many other activities, the report highlights the ICO’s guidance in relation to cookies on websites, and how it is seeking to empower individuals (through awareness and education) to play their part in asserting their rights. This includes the ICO’s drive for information rights to be included within the school curriculum, so that awareness starts at a young age. The ICO received 225,138 calls to its helpline over the year, through which it aims to assist both individuals and organisations to understand rights and obligations.

The ICO also looks ahead to the new Data Protection Regulation, which is due to be in force in 2016, which will change the scope of its responsibilities and the way in which it is funded.

The full report is available at www.ico.org.uk.

Enforcement and caseloads – some statistics

The ICO issued civil monetary penalties of £2.6 million on 23 data controllers over the course of the year, and has conducted 58 audits on data controllers (an increase of 38% from last year).

The ICO received 13,802 data protection complaints (almost 1,000 more than the year before). Of complaint casework finished, 35% resulted in an assessment that compliance was unlikely, i.e. there was a likely breach of data protection requirements by the data controller. Almost half of the complaints were about subject access requests (which remains the most common issue for complaints). Disclosure of data, inaccurate data and security were also common areas.

The freedom of information caseload was similar to last year with 4,693 complaints received. 43% were about local government, with central government and then the health sector being the next most common. However, a lot of complaints appear to have been made too early before internal reviews by the relevant public authorities have been completed.

Fewer complaints were made in the area of privacy & electronic communications – 6,386 complaints over the course of the year. On the face of it, it is surprising there were not more; however, the ICO provided a separate reporting tool for spam texts and nuisance phone calls which gathered more than 155,000 consumer tip offs over the year. This is likely to have reduced the number of separate complaints made. Almost half of complaints were about direct marketing organisations, with no other industry featuring above 9%. Recorded telesales generated the most complaints (at 31%), followed by spam texts, telesales with ‘real’ people and emails.

Olivia Whitcroft, principal of OBEP, 24 June 2013

This article provides general information on the subject matter and is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice. If you would like to discuss this topic, please contact Olivia Whitcroft using the contact details set out here: Contact Details