As the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) launches its 2011/12 annual report, information commissioner Christopher Graham said that organizations are learning “the hard way” about the consequences of mishandling people’s information. Within the past year, there has been a 60% increase in the number of audits carried out by the ICO good practice team. Its new powers to tackle unsolicited marketing calls and texts have now extended to issuing a monetary penalty of up to £500,000 on the worst offenders. “We hope these penalties send a clear message to both the public and private sectors that they cannot afford to fail when it comes to handling people’s data correctly,” said Graham. In addition, the ICO has set up a dedicated team to enforce the Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations, executed search warrants at sites across the UK that are suspected of breaking the law and set up an online reporting mechanism on their website that allows people to report any marketing texts or calls from unidentified senders.

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