Privacy Advisor

Global Privacy Dispatches- UK- Data Minimisation

July 1, 2008

By Eduardo Ustaran

UK Parliament Seeks Data Minimisation

The Home Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament has requested the government "adopt a principle of data minimisation" in the information it collects and holds on citizens. This means that the government should collect only what is essential, store it only for as long as is necessary and "resist a tendency to collect more personal information and establish larger databases."

Published in early June, the official report lays out a set of "ground rules" for government as a whole (and the Home Office in particular) that it recommends the government follow to "curb unnecessary surveillance, protect the public against the loss of personal data, and maintain the trust of those individuals whose sense of privacy and individual liberty underpins the relationship between citizen and state in our society." The Parliament is particularly concerned about any attempt to use patient data or information held on children for the purposes of predictive profiling for future criminal behaviour rather than child protection.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas welcomed the report and said that he was pleased that the committee had recognised the work of his office in raising awareness of the issue and supports the ICO's call for the introduction of privacy impact assessments. Thomas also indicated that before new developments which could increase levels of surveillance take place, full consideration must be given to the privacy impact on individuals, ensuring safeguards are in place to minimise intrusion.

Eduardo Ustaran is the Head of the  Privacy and Information Law Group at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, based in London. He is a member of the IAPP Education Advisory Board, co-chair of KnowledgeNet London, editor of Data Protection Law & Policy and co-author of E-Privacy and Online Data Protection. He may be reached at eduardo.ustaran@ffw.com.