The Information Commissioner’s Office has opened a consultation on a new framework code of practice for organisations sharing personal data on individuals.
The ICO is encouraging organisations to use the framework to produce their own codes of practice and ensure compliance with the Data Protection Act.
Publication of the framework follows a guide issued last week to help members of the public understand why and how their personal data may be shared.
The watchdog said the code of practice had been drawn up “in response to the large number of queries we receive from local authorities, the police and others about information sharing”.
Decision makers and frontline staff were “often unclear about how the rules of data protection apply to their work”, the watchdog said. “There can be uncertainty and a lack of confidence when making decisions about the sharing of personal information.”
Iain Bourne, head of data protection projects at the ICO, said: “Good practice in this area is of paramount importance. Organisations that share information must do so responsibly. If they do not, they risk losing individuals’ trust.”
Public bodies are at the centre of an increasingly heated debate on data sharing – and privacy concerns.
The government’s move last month to give the police access to data on millions of individuals’ car journeys gathered by congestion charging cameras sparked controversy – as did prime minister Gordon Brown’s inclusion of new data sharing powers in three planned government bills.
The debate has also seen calls for greater data sharing between public sector bodies, with the Commons communities and local government committee recently urging more data sharing to increase the uptake of council tax benefit.
The closing date for comments on the ICO’s draft framework is 1 October 2007.