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July 19, 1990

DATA PROTECTION COMPLAINTS DOUBLED

By CBR Staff Writer

Speaking at the release of his sixth annual report, the Data Protection Registrar, Eric Howe stressed the increasing number of complaints to his office which have more than doubled since last year. But although the total number of complaints in all categories has increased, the emphasis has shifted. Consumer credit queries dropped to 17% from 35% while complaints about unsolicted mail accounted for 45% of the total 2,698. Despite this, Howe says that data protection progress is being made in this sector, with the initiative coming from the direct marketing industry, as well as from the Registrar’s office. In the case of the Registrar, action has mostly been in the form of education to assist organisations to comply with the eight Data Protection Principles, although there is one current case where the Registrar is awaiting a trial in which a direct marketing company has continued to send out unsolicited mail, despite being served a notice by the Registrar. Under the Data Protection Act, 30 data users had cases brought against them, 20 of which have been heard, with the defendants found guilty in every one – 10 were brought against data users for failing to re-register; 22% failed to re-register at the end of the three year period. Howe cited various reasons for this but said that some of those were simply risking it. With the approach of the Single European Market, he said the issue of transborder data flows was increasingly likely to arise. The first investigations involving these flows took place this year. He rejected the notion of a supra-national data protection body but said that the European draft directive on the subject should be ratified by all Community countries to give a uniform basic level of protection.

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