Letter: Spooks can be prosecuted

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your comments ("pounds 1.4bn pile of junk through the letterbox", 17 July) on the latest annual report from the Data Protection Registrar quote the registrar's intention to examine "whether some aspects of the work of the intelligence services could be brought into the data protection fold", because "crime fighting ... may well fall under data protection laws", but omit reference to the most crucial element of his long-standing issue.

If an organisation should register under the Data Protection Act (for some or all of its activities) but does not, then the registrar cannot enforce the principles of good practice on which the Act is based, and individuals are wholly deprived of their rights established by the Act, including, for instance, the (qualified) right to obtain a copy of their personal data and to correct this information, if necessary.

All that the registrar can do in those circumstances, if appropriate, is to prosecute the organisation for non-registration (a criminal offence). In this context it is perhaps worth pointing out that the intelligence services are not government departments and, therefore, could be prosecuted by the registrar.


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