The House of Lords has proposed making it a criminal offence to disclose personal information intentionally or recklessly. The Lords passed an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, defeating the Government.
If it is to become law the amendment will need to be approved by MPs in the House of Commons. The Government opposed the amendment but was defeated by 134 votes to 130.
The amendment would make it a criminal offence to “intentionally or recklessly disclose information contained in personal data to another person, repeatedly and negligently allow information to be contained in personal data to be disclosed, or intentionally or recklessly fail to comply with [their] duties”.
“Data controllers currently do not face anything like adequate sanctions if they intentionally or recklessly disclose information, or indeed are repeatedly negligent,” said Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, introducing the amendment.
“Goodness knows, this is not exactly a new issue. The Government have had time to address it. In 2002 in another place [the House of Commons] my honourable friend Paul Burstow revealed that a total of 1,354 government-owned computers had gone missing over the previous five years, while much more recently, as noble Lords will be aware, vast amounts of data, whether from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs or the health sector, have been lost,” she said.
“The issue has been around for a long time, and not only in government sectors. The private sector, as we know, can be negligent, and it can do all sorts of things with data that it should not do. Both the public and private sectors need to be covered by further sanctions, which is the reason for our amendment,” said Miller.