The Data Sharing Review, published on 11 July, potentially marks the start of a comprehensive review of data protection law and practice in the UK. If the authors have their way, it could also spark off a review of EU law.

The authors, Richard Thomas (the Information Commissioner) and Dr Mark Walport (director of the Wellcome Trust), have spent the last few months collating responses to a consultation paper issued in December 2007. They have now produced this detailed report, which runs to 74 pages plus annexes. The report stems from a request by the Prime Minister in October 2007 to review the framework for use of personal data in the public and private sectors.

The authors have used this as an opportunity to produce a wide ranging review and critique of the way in which data protection currently works, or doesn't. At the centre of this report is a series of 19 recommendations to Government, ranging from how data protection should form part of organisational culture and the publishing by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) of a statutory code on data sharing, to a call for a wholesale review of EU data protection law.

The ICO has commissioned RAND Europe, an independent think tank, to conduct a review of EU data protection law. The European Commission is also looking to appoint an external organisation to carry out a similar review. A formal review of EU law may now be forthcoming. The authors strongly believe a review is necessary as the EU Data Protection Directive has been widely criticised by respondents to the consultation for its ineffectiveness and opaqueness.

For anyone involved with data protection, this document is well worth a read to understand where data protection may be heading. We will be following up with further information on aspects of the review in the next few days.