The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has welcomed the recent proposals put forward by the European Commission for a new EU data protection system to be created, in order to meet the needs of the increasingly advanced digital age (Please see our previous e-update). There have been calls for greater protection of the privacy of online users and increased controls for individuals over their personal data.

The Information Commissioner ("Commissioner") has expressed his approval of a number of features of the new data protection proposals. This includes the strengthened law on user consent, reinforcing the right to object by moving the onus on to the data controller to show sufficient reasons for retaining the data in question, as well as the introduction of a compulsory data breach notification duty. The Commissioner also indicated support of the plans to offer incentives to those who comply with the regime and giving Data Protection authorities greater investigative powers.

There are other aspects of the proposals which the Commissioner thinks need further consideration. In particular, the extension of the scope of data protection obligations to cover any processing directed at users resident in the EU without demonstrating how the Regulation will be enforced out with the EU requires some attention. In addition, the Commissioner believes that the restriction placed on public authorities to process personal data, where this can only benefit individual citizens, warrants further thought.

The Commissioner has also considered the new Directive proposed by the European Commission which relates to the processing of personal data by law enforcement authorities. He has expressed disappointment that, in such an important area concerning the processing or personal data, the ICO's proposals do not go far enough to safeguard individuals.

Following this initial response from the Commissioner, to the European Commission's proposals, it is expected that further detailed consideration will follow, as well as a contribution to the Article 29 Working Party's examination of the proposals in the near future.