British chief executives must do more to protect their employees' and customers' personal data, the information commissioner has said.
Publishing his annual report in London later today, Richard Thomas will call on UK chief executives to take data-protection breaches "more seriously" after a number of high-profile security breaches in the last year.
Sixteen individuals and organisations have been prosecuted by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in the past year. Mr Thomas will warn firms later today that in addition to facing enforcement action businesses "risk losing the trust of their customers".
He will highlight examples of the "careless and inexcusable breaches of people's personal information" seen in the last year, including firms which allowed laptops holding customer account details to be used outside the office without encryption and those which failed to prevent online applicants from seeing each others' forms.
"Business and public sector leaders must take their data protection obligations more seriously," Mr Thomas will say.
"The roll call of banks, retailers, government departments, public bodies and other organisations which have admitted serious security lapses is frankly horrifying."
During the last year the ICO received over 24,000 enquiries related to personal information.
This reflects what Mr Thomas describes as a "sea change" in awareness of information issues, with the proportion of people aware of freedom of information rights this year up six per cent to 82 per cent in 2007.