The name Data Protection Registrar is unhelpful and gives the public no indication of the purpose of the position, the new – and only the second – incumbent says. Elizabeth France, who became Registrar in September, taking over from Eric Howe who had held the post from its creation in 1984, said, It’s a difficult […]
The name Data Protection Registrar is unhelpful and gives the public no indication of the purpose of the position, the new – and only the second – incumbent says. Elizabeth France, who became Registrar in September, taking over from Eric Howe who had held the post from its creation in 1984, said, It’s a difficult title that doesn’t mean a lot to people. Some reference to privacy would be useful. presenting her office’s eleventh annual report she said it was time to reconsider what to call the post, which she believed was responsible for protecting a fundamental human right. But she disagreed with Howe’s calls last year for the UK government to change current legislation in advance of the expected European Commission directive. Howe had been calling for cha nges to the Data Protection Act 1984 since 1989, but Ms France said this was no longer practical given the time needed in the UK to pass legislation. Although the directive has been delayed for some time, her office expects it by the end of the month and the UK could have legislation on its books by 1998. More generally, Ms France said she wanted to raise the profile of the post and the work she and her staff do as she believed only a limited number of people knew what that was. This has included establishing a World Wide Web home page, moving the actual register to an open system architecture from a mainframe, and recasting the register so the general public would be able to interrogate it. An advisory group to the registrar has been established to give her a wider range of views on how to protect individuals’ privacy. Information in the report showed that there were many processors of data that did not realise they were manipulating private information about individuals, leading to considerable under-regist ration. The time had come, she claimed, to look at universal registration, or a tiered system depending on what the data processor was doing. Although there was clearly under-registration, complaints about data processors had not risen appreciably. Some employers have been forcing prospective employees to demand access to data on them held by third parties, leading to some organisations getting hold of information to which they had no rights. Ms France said she hoped the latest registration would address this loop hole.