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Volume 497: debated on Monday 12 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what role the Information Commissioner has in monitoring the use of surveillance techniques by media organisations; what reports the Information Commissioner has received of misuse of such techniques by media organisations in the last two years; and if he will make a statement. (288171)

The Information Commissioner's Office is the independent regulator with responsibility for enforcing the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).

In his evidence session to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on 2 September, the Information Commissioner (IC) outlined his responsibility for investigating and punishing “blagging” activity (the practice of tricking organisations into revealing confidential personal information), because this is an offence under section 55 of the DPA. It may also be relevant for the IC to investigate and take the necessary action in cases where personal information collected using surveillance techniques is then not processed in compliance with the Data Protection Principles set out in the DPA. However, enforcement of the Regulatory and Investigation Powers Act 2000 to tackle illegal phone hacking and tapping is the responsibility of the Surveillance Commissioners and not the IC.

In his evidence session, the Information Commissioner confirmed that his Office had received no further evidence about the media's use of private investigators beyond that obtained during the course of the Motorman investigation.