An amendment to a discussion tabled in the House of Lords relating to the Protection of Freedoms Bill 2010 – 2011 has called for the creation of a dedicated Privacy Commissioner.

The proposed establishment of a single Privacy Commissioner seeks to correct the existing proliferation of UK commissioners with strictly circumscribed powers and create an organization that is sufficiently flexible to navigate through the ever-changing technology and privacy policy landscapes.

If the Bill receives Royal Assent and becomes law, the new Commissioner will supersede the current UK Information Commissioner and reflect a more holistic approach of protecting individual privacy in all of its aspects rather than regulating personal data alone.

The Privacy Commissioner also will acquire the powers currently exercised by the Chief Surveillance and Interception of Communications Commissioners under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, as well as the powers of two new authorities – a Commissioner for the Retention and Use of Biometric Material and a Surveillance Camera Commissioner.

The Committee stage, or a line by line examination of the Bill, begins in the House of Lords on 29 November and will end on 15 December 2011.

Some of the key provisions under the Bill include:

  • establishing a new framework for police retention of fingerprints and DNA data, and requiring schools to obtain parental consent before processing children’s biometric information;
  • introducing a code of practice for surveillance camera systems and providing for judicial approval of certain surveillance activities by local authorities;
  • introducing a new regime for police stops and searches under the Terrorism Act 2000 and reducing the maximum pre-charge detention period under that Act from 28 to 14 days;
  • extending rights under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 by requiring so called “datasets” (factual information held in electronic form obtained or recorded to facilitate the provision of services by a public authority that has not been materially altered since it was collected or recorded) to be made available by public authorities in a re-usable format.