Ruth Mitchell

Action call over personal details

Ministers are being urged to come up with better ways of protecting peoples’ personal information in the wake of fresh worries about identity fraud. A report by the think-tank Demos is warning that people are losing control of their private details because of the amount of information they give out to services such as supermarket loyalty schemes and shopping websites. It also calls for Labour’s ID cards policy to be scrapped unless the public are properly consulted.

The think tank suggests that banks could have an insurance-type “no-claims” bonus for people who successfully protect their own identity from fraudsters. Its recommendations come less than a month after the loss of two discs containing the data of 25 million people by HM Revenue and Customs.

In the wake of the security breach, Gordon Brown announced that checks on the handling of data by every Government department and agency would take place. He also pledged that new powers would be given to the Information Commissioner to enable spot-checks on public bodies holding personal information.

The Demos study, supported by O2, is the outcome of a nine month research project which interviewed figures from credit and government agencies, technologists and the private sector.

It says: “The Government must urgently develop a more coherent strategy around the way personal information is held and used. “It must implement cash-handling disciplines to ensure that personal information is treated with sufficient value and respect. Government departments should have a responsibility to tell individuals how their information is used and how that affects them.”

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