Consumer rights group Which? has issued a call for new law to protect citizens from the damaging effects of data breaches, calling for an amendment to the Data Protection Bill which would allow independent public interest groups - including Which? itself - to act on behalf of victims.
Introduced back in September, the Data Protection Bill is a revised version of the present Data Protection Act which integrates some - but not all - of the requirements of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 'We are strengthening Britain's data rules to make them fit for the digital age in which we live and that means giving people more control over their own data,' said Minister of State for Digital Matt Hancock of the Bill at the time of its unveiling. 'There are circumstances where the processing of data is vital for our economy, our democracy and to protect us against illegality. Today, as we publish the Data Protection Bill, I am offering assurances to both the public and private sector that we are protecting this important work.'
Privacy campaign organisation the Open Rights Group (ORG), however, complained at the time that the abandoning of GDPR provisions for consumer groups to lodge independent data protection complaints on the behalf of consumers was a mistake. 'The UK has neglected an important option in the General Data Protection Regulation which gives consumer privacy groups like Open Rights Group the ability to lodge independent data protection complaints,' claimed ORG executive director Jim Killock at the time. 'Open Rights Group wants to be able to campaign on behalf of people who are afraid of complaining or do not realised [sic] that they have been affected.'
Now consumer rights group Which? has weighed in with the same concerns. 'Data breaches are now more commonplace and yet many people have no idea what to do or who to turn to when their personal data is compromised,' claims Which? managing director of home products and services Alex Neill as part of the group's call to action. 'The Government should use the Data Protection Bill to give independent bodies the power to seek collective redress on behalf of consumers when a company has failed to take sufficient action following a data breach.'
Pointing to in-house research suggesting one in five people don't know how to claim redress following a breach nor who is responsible for assisting them should a data breach put them at risk, Which? is echoing the ORG's call for an amendment to the Bill allowing it to act on consumers' behalf. Which? claims wide support from its survey respondents, with three quarters welcoming the idea that an independent body would be able to assist them with claims made against companies responsible for a data breach.
To support its argument, Which? is asking victims of data breaches to share their stories. Thus far, the government has not responded to Which?'s call for an amendment.