Campaigners call on ICO for anonymised data rethink


The Information Commissioner Office (ICO) has come under fire from privacy campaigners, following the launch of its public consultation into the handling of anonymised data.

The data protection watchdog announced the launch of the consultation yesterday, as it sets out to establish a code of practice to stop people being identified when submitting personal data.

Your declaration that such activities fall beyond the reach of the DPA effectively removes all protection for consumers.

The ICO said the code of practice will provide organisations with guidance on how to successfully anonymise data so that it can be used by others.

Speaking to IT Pro, Steve Wood, head of policy at the ICO, said the code of practice was being introduced, partly, in response to the Government's open data initiative.

"There is a push to open up more datasets and some of that will be based on personal data in it raw form, so there is some issues where public bodies are concerned about how they disclose that data without identifying the people involved," he said.

"The aim is to bring some clarity to those kinds of situations."

The consultation will run until 23 August, with the final version of the code of practice expected to be launched the following month.

The ICO has released a draft version of the code of practice, as part of the consultation, which states that the Data Protection Act (DPA) does not cover anonymised data.

"The DPA is concerned with personal data...which relates to a living individual who can be identified," said the document.

"It follows, therefore, that information that does not relate to and identify an individual is not personal data and the DPA does not apply to it."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.