I have come to the conclusion that there is a credible argument to scrap the Office of the Information Commissioner. No, I have not lost my marbles. Nor have I received a backhander from Google to fund our new Amberhawk website. This is a credible argument that can be made, especially at a time when deep public sector cuts are …
The ICO is a goddamn farce
My experience of it has been that you make the FOI request to Corruptville Council, they answer a completely different set of questions, you appear to the ICO, then 6 months later they say "Now, now, Corruptville Council, you really should answer the question." Then exactly nothing. Else. Happens.
You ask the ICO what they're going to do about it, and the answer is "Well, we could fine them, but we won't." Press them further, and the real answer is (srlsy) "We won't fine them because we don't think they'll pay it, and we don't want to incur the costs of a court case, blah blah not an effective use of taxpayer resources."
So what, exactly, is the point of an paper tiger ICO that blows over in the gentlest breeze?
Fines arent the answer.
What they need is for someone in the public body thats failing to cooperate to have their job on the line as a result.
Its surprising just how cooperative people are when either they or their boss will get sacked for failing to do something.
The theory looks very appealing on paper, well, screen. Equally you could make valid arguements for merging the civilian emergency services with the armed forces. You could equally merge the home and away security services. You could merge many county councils into super councils. In fact you could merge just about anything you wanted to, yes indeed the theory of merging is excellent, the reality, something completely different, as if many peoples lives aren't f++++d up enough already.
Won't make any difference....
Until individuals are held DIRECTLY responsible for Data Protection/FOI this farce will continue to waste everyones time and money.
Fining companies/public sector organisations doesn't work.
In the case of companies the fines are set so low that its almost cheaper just to view them as an annual expense, rather than fix the issues properly.
In the case of public sector organisations you are effectively fining the taxpayer for something that is completely beyond their control - a farcical situation.
The ICO should go after individuals and hold them personally accountable for failure to comply with the law. Fines should be a minimum of £25k which ought to concentrate minds mmmm?
Until that happens nothing at all will change.
Merge? Disembowel more like
I've said here and elsewhere the ICO is totally unfit for purpose and needs to be completely gutted and replaced with competent, knowledgeable staff who do what a watchdog should - use their teeth and punish those who drive a cart and horses through data proaction legislation. The ICO have already admitted they have no Information Security experienced or qualified staff on their books.
The ICO's spinelessness over the Phorm & BT issue is all the evidence you need for putting them all in a giant Wicker Man and setting fire to it while dancing around it singing songs. The ICO lacks guts, teeth, balls and relevance.
My fat, castrated cat has told me he wants to be the new Information Commissioner. He is a lot cheaper than Mr Graham, cuter and he has real experience of having no balls at all. If you're going to have a eunuch organisation then you should have a real eunuch at the top level.
I have seen FOI requests used maliciously. The organisation - who is at the lowest level of local government (run by volunteers) - received regular FOI requests from the same person. Each time one was responded to, another would arrive. They appeared to be sifting through all the information looking for something they could use to disgrace/discredit/embarrass one of the individuals involved in the organisation.
The effect was that the admin person was kept very, very busy!
There is an argument for merging the various functions but you must admit that the legal technicalities involved in implementing the respective laws of each function are very complex. This might be better with separate functions each specialising on their own subject.
BTW - there is an IT angle on this. We are in the process of stuffing everything we can on the web site. The FOI person will be able to spend many hours or even days with their favourite browser looking at all the information, while the admin person can take a break.
It's possible to a certain extent
By submitting a Section 11 (DPA) notice to an organisation, that organisation should cease processing your personal data for direct marketing purposes. Many of the complaints received by the ICO are complaints about unwanted direct marketing. If the law were changed so that individuals had the legal right to claim £100 in damages from any organisation that fails to comply with their Section 11 notice, then there is an valid argument for reducing the ICO's resources. www.mindmydata.co.uk
Fines are only effective if they are taken from the wages budget (maybe the bonus part of that budget?)
See, you have to think like self-interested civil servants who probably made the case years ago:
If you fine us we have to take it out of our operational budget and that means we have to reduce services to our " c-u-s-t-o-m-e-r-s ".
Wow! That is great!
How did you work out that neat scam?
Well, we were worried that someone might get the idea of taking it out of our wages or worse still out of the new bonus scheme we have in place.
So, we argued, that it will effect service levels.
Neat eh? Seemplz Tseetch!
Well look, tell you what. Don't say this to anyone but we are going to use exactly the same scam (I mean argument of course!) and hope we can have a bonus arrangement too that will not be poorly impacted when we guff stuff up.
Here's a drink to that! Good luck!
The author makes some excellent...
points but misses the point of the government having four separate entities involved in the publics privacy rights. Having a large and complex bureaucracy allows the government to slow down public requests for information, human rights issues, and any other type of issue you can think of. At the same time, when the government needs something important these bureaucracies work at the speed light to get things. They who butters the bread.
The Interception Commision
is *not* there to help people who think they have been unlawfully intercepted.
He's there to tell the general public (In *very* general terms) what a good job those who are allowed to intercept communications are doing an excellent job.
You could eliminate him completely and not notice the effect (except in the bottom line).
I used to be the FOI ...
... lead at an acute NHS hospital.
The most sould destroying job you can imagine.
Journalist asks for some info, say number of unexpected deaths in ops last month. Pass request to relevant department. Send reminders. Month later phone up.
"No we don;t want to release that information," (I got this a lot.)
"It might make us look bad."
After a month or so of not responding.
"I am no longer responsible for this ..."
I was pretty much hated, and even got a roasting from senior staff for being "too co-operative with journalists."
Yes, until individuals are prescuted nothing will change.