Headlines: October 11th, 2007

Public and private sector organisations have been given new guidance on sharing people’s personal information. ‘The Framework Code of Practice for Sharing Personal Information’ has been produced by the Information Commissioner’s Office, which says it is a plain English guide to how bodies can set up their own sharing arrangements.

The ICO says the guidance is designed to ensure that when organisations need to share personal details good practice is adopted. The Office will also be able to endorse organisations’ own Codes of Practice, subject to having the right to audit arrangements on the ground. It believes the new guide will help bodies to decide when to share information and what information to share. It also highlights the consequences of sharing and deals with the issue of consent.

It goes on to outline other factors, such as security, accuracy of information and the periods for which information is retained. The ICO says the guide is designed to be flexible and to enable organisations to adopt it as a whole or to integrate some of its content into existing policies and systems.

Iain Bourne, Head of Data Protection Projects, said sensible information sharing had clear benefits to both organisations and individuals. Law enforcement organisations had to have access to the information they needed to counter the increasingly sophisticated methods of fraudsters and other criminals. “People’s time is valuable and tasks like renewing car tax online are now quicker for consumers thanks to relevant information being shared. However, there are also risks to sharing personal information especially as technology makes it easier to store large amounts of sensitive information about people’s private lives. Information
must be shared in a secure, lawful and responsible way in order to maintain public trust and confidence,” he said.