Letter: Press abuses can harm democracy as much as curbs

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your coverage of the reported Calcutt recommendations omits any reference to the Data Protection Act.

Yet this Act already provides a mechanism to balance the protection of individuals against the needs of organisations, such as newspapers, to obtain and use personal data. For instance, you fail to make the connection with the Act's First Principle, which requires personal data to be fairly obtained and fairly processed, and also with its Fifth Principle, which requires such data to be accurate.

Any complaint of substance, to the Data Protection Registrar, on such issues could result in an Enforcement Notice; failure to comply with the Notice could, in turn, result in criminal prosecution. If a newspaper faces this prospect, it can, like any other Data User, appeal to the Data Protection Tribunal. This has a remit that extends to all data protection topics, in contrast to the narrow focus of a press complaints tribunal.

I suggest that the potential of existing legislation remains to be explored, and that the Act could well be as effective as any new initiatives.

Yours faithfully,

FREDDY KOSTEN

Information Protection

Consultant

Hoskyns Group

London, EC1

11 January

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