The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has launched a consultation on a new draft code of practice which sets out the privacy watchdog’s proposed approach to using its new auditing powers due to come into effect in April 2010.
The ICO will take a proportionate and risk-based approach to auditing, based on a range of intelligence including complaints received, business and media reports and annual statements issued by the organisation. The auditing process allows the ICO to assess whether organisations are processing personal information in line with the Data Protection Act (DPA) and to advise on best practice. The ICO will continue to request consent for an audit to be carried out where it is identified that personal information may be at risk.
However, where an organisation refuses to work with the auditing team, but is considered as being at significant risk of compromising personal data, the ICO will be able to serve an Assessment Notice – a compulsory audit notice. Initially the ICO will only be able to conduct these compulsory audits on central government departments. It will though be able to make a case to the Government for the power of compulsion to be available more widely. The draft code of practice has been designed to provide advice on the ICO’s auditing framework to all public and private sector organisations and will be relevant whether an audit is to be carried out by consent or with compulsion.
David Smith, Deputy Commissioner at the ICO, said: “Auditing plays a key role in educating and assisting organisations to meet their obligations under the Data Protection Act. We will work with organisations that want to get it right and are keen to follow best practice. However, those government departments less willing to work with us will face an Assessment Notice if there is evidence to suggest they are putting personal information at risk. Whilst our auditing powers are restricted to central government departments initially, we will, where we can make a good case, seek to extend our powers to undertake compulsory audits in the rest of the public and private sectors.”
The draft code includes information on the factors considered before issuing an Assessment Notice, the ICO’s approach to compulsory audits and the Information Commissioner’s considerations regarding further action following an audit.
The consultation launched on 11 February 2010 and closes on 24 March 2010. The draft code is available on the ICO’s website at http://www.ico.gov.uk/about_us/consultations/our_consultations.aspx
Comments and suggestions can be sent to Chris Turner at [email protected], or by post to Chris Turner, Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, SK9 5AF.
Source: Information Commissioner’s Office