The Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said British chief executives need to take the safety of customers' and employees' data more seriously after a series of breaches over the last year.
Launching his annual report Thomas said: "Over the last year we have seen far too many careless and inexcusable breaches of people's personal information. The roll call of banks, retailers, government departments, public bodies and other organisations which have admitted serious security lapses is frankly horrifying."
He said it was time business and public sector leaders take their data protection issues seriously. Thomas wants more power for his quango with the right to inspect and audit companies it suspects of failing to secure data properly.
The Information Commissioner's Office received 24,000 enquiries and complaints last year. It has prosecuted just 16 individuals or organisations as a result. Earlier this year it got High Street banks to sign an undertaking not to leave customer details in binbags on the street any more.
Last month, the ICO found Orange in breach of the data protection act for not keeping its customer data secure. New members of staff were able to share passwords and access customer. Home shopping outfit Littlewoods was berated for similar lapses.
The ICO press release(Pdf), and a link to its Annual Report, is here.®