Information Commissioner quizzed on data protection at Leveson Inquiry

The Information Commissioner was pressed at the Leveson Inquiry today over whether or not he should seek out evidence of data protection breaches.

Christopher Graham said he had seen no proof of breaches of data protection beyond the “historic” evidence resulting from Operation Motorman published in 2006, which disclosed the names of 22 newspapers that used private investigator Steve Whittamore to access illegally-obtained information.

Graham said there is currently “no smoke”, and that it was not in his remit to “set off on fishing expeditions.”

“I am inclined to wait until I have more evidence of current abuse than I do at the moment,” he said, adding that the regulator had to “pick its battles” and “prioritise resources” where there is evidence of wrongdoing.

Lord Justice Leveson said that the absence of evidence does not mean something is or is not going on. “We do not know what we do not know,” he told Graham.

Graham added he was “surprised” to hear the Daily Express’ revelation earlier this month that they had used private investigator Steve Whittamore in 2010, five years after he had been convicted for illegally trading information.

He was also quizzed over a letter published today by the Hacked Off campaign asking the ICO to inform Whittamore’s targets, so they may challenge claims that searches were done in the public interest.

Graham said it would be a “phenomenal undertaking” to notify the targets revealed by Operation Motorman (the investigation that examined the use of a private investigators by the media to obtain personal information), adding that he “would have to take on a veritable army” of people to do so.

He later invited those concerned to make “subject access requests”.

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