Fining isnt Fine

 

In 2011 seven councils were fined a total of £640,000 by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) for various breaches to the Data Protection Act (DPA), and who footed the bill? Well the Tax payer of course!

Naturally there are the normal rumbles of how ‘unfair’ this is, accompanied by the obligatory “Our hard earned taxes should go towards something useful” and quiet rightly so? But if the council (the Tax payer) doesn’t pay a fine that is issued by the ICO for a breach of the DPA, then who does?

In theory the fairest way would be to have the individual that committed the breach, or the management in charge, to pay the fine, but what appears solid in theory is often far from that in reality.

Lets look at this more closely: If an individual or the management responsible were to take full blame for a breach, and with it shoulder the consequences of a fine and possible criminal prosecution, would that not leave us with a workforce that was too scared to send an email in fear of crippling fines? Would that not be counter productive?

Besides the fact that making individuals pay for their mistakes would require contractual changes, and lets face it; would you sign a change of contract that suddenly made you personally accountable? Without any increased benefits it would be improbable that anyone would willingly sign it.

The more probable outcome would be the public sector being forced into building in liability insurance, as is required by doctors and the like, meaning that the staff would be covered for any mistakes that result in fines.

But what affect would this have on the work force? What appears attractive at first might have a detrimental effect in the long term. Would the public sector end up with a work force that was scared to make a move, or would it make the employees more security conscious?

Though consequently we need to stand up and say “Fining isn’t Fine” irrespective of who will pay. Not making a mistake that would risk the wrath of the ICO would be vastly preferable than having to go through the changes of contracts and introducing liability insurance that will ultimately leave an entire sector quivering wrecks, and will produce a brand new bill of its own, and who will pay that new bill? You guessed it.....the Tax payer!