Scottish Government convenes privacy-protection group

Out-Law News | 11 Sep 2008 | 5:07 pm | 1 min. read

The Scottish Government has asked a panel of experts to produce rules for public bodies to follow so that personal information and privacy is better protected. The move follows a series of UK-wide data breaches involving public authorities.

The panel will produce guidance for public bodies to ensure that they are treating personal information properly. That guidance will be subject to public consultation before any adoption by the Scottish Government.

The group of experts includes representatives from the public and private sectors and includes Rosemary Jay, a privacy law expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM.

The group also includes Gus Hosein of Privacy International, Scottish Government director of corporate services Paul Gray, assistant information commissioner for Scotland Ken Macdonald, Edinburgh University honorary fellow Charles Raab and Jerry Fishenden, Microsoft's lead technology advisor for the UK.

"While I am confident that public bodies are already working to high standards of IT security, we recognise the need to ensure public confidence in the public sector's handling of personal information," said finance secretary John Swinney.

"This expert group, appointed by Ministers, will develop a draft set of guiding principles for public bodies to help them protect individuals' privacy when handling their information," he said.

"It is quite an adventurous group," said Jay. "With the likes of Gus Hosein who is an opponent of ID cards and Charles Raab on it, the group represents a very good cross section of expertise."

The panel has been asked to advise the Scottish Government on the principles which should govern the gathering of private data from citizens where public services use IT systems to gather and store information. It will also advise on how schools and other authorities should implement biometric systems in a way that does not violate users' rights to privacy.

Public bodies' gathering and use of personal data has been in the spotlight in the last year following a number of breaches, including the loss of 25 million child benefit claimants' personal details last November.