New delay for email code

‘Before passing judgement, I wanted to see the complete version,’ said former lawyer Richard Thomas. ‘This only arrived on my desk at the start of last week.’

Many companies are concerned that the code will prove too cumbersome, especially small businesses. Thomas said he would ‘need to produce a version for small businesses. They won’t welcome 50 to 60 pages to wade through’.

He would not go into any further detail about when we can expect the final version, only saying that he was working on it and hopes ‘to be in a position to make further comments soon’.

Thomas is responsible for enforcing and overseeing the Data Protection Act 1998 and Freedom of Information Act 2000. Previously, he was director of public property at law firm Clifford Chance and he has also served as a director of consumer affairs at the Office of Fair Trading. Last week Thomas was forced to admit the email code was delayed.

He has been in the post for almost six weeks now, and sees his priority as getting the message across about the importance of openness for the public and the respect needed when dealing with personal information.

‘I’d like to see us as a more proactive organisation,’ he said. ‘But also, I want to promote good practice in data protection and freedom of information. I am keen to make sure people understand why there is a need for data protection. I recognise that some people see the Data Protection Act as bureaucratic. If need be, we will try to make it simpler. There are always ways of tightening things up, but the Act is fundamentally sound.’

He added that he has a real worry about information theft. ‘This is where people are using deception to get someone else’s personal information.

They get maybe a NI number, then use that to get bank records. This is a serious criminal matter, and I will crack down hard on it,’ he declared.

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