ICO wants more power, money

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas tells government he needs more money and spot check powers - and challenges ID card plans.

Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, has told the government his office (ICO) needs a bigger budget and more power, and challenged the UK identity card scheme.

In a justice select committee meeting at parliament yesterday, Thomas laid out his requests, backed up by the recent data breach at the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Thomas told MPs that he had previously requested an increase to his 10 million budget, which comes entirely from inspection fees - not from the government.

He also reiterated his calls for criminal charges for negligence leading to a data breach and for his office to be allowed to conduct data security spot checks on government agencies and private organisations without prior notice. At the moment, the ICO needs the organisation's permission or must apply for a warrant.

Thomas said such limited powers were a "very bizarre situation, unlike virtually all the other data protection authorities around the world and most other regulatory bodies, such as the Financial Services Authority."

Thomas also told the committee that the government should be wary of ID cards, not just because of the amount of information being collected but also because of uncertainties about the scheme's purpose.

"Is it to improve policing, to fight terrorism, to improve public services, to avoid identity theft? I think there is a lot of thinking still to be done on its primary purpose," he said.

Following the HMRC data breach, MPs and others called on the government to halt the ID card scheme.

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