The UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which is responsible for enforcing the Data Protection Act, is calling on organisations to implement stronger safeguards to help protect personal data in the wake of the security breach at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The data watchdog says the breach at HMRC - where two computers disks containing information on 25 million child benefit claimants have gone missing - was a "watershed" and is calling for companies and individuals to step up the fight against ID fraud.
The ICO says people need to take more control over their own personal data to help guard against the risks of identity fraud, while firms need to conduct privacy impact assessments to boost public confidence in data collection.
The watchdog is also calling on firms to consider the impact on individuals' privacy before developing new IT systems or changing the way personal data is handled.
"It is essential that before introducing new systems and technologies, which could accelerate the growth of a surveillance society, full consideration is given to the impact on individuals and that safeguards are in place to minimise intrusion," says David Smith, deputy commissioner at the ICO. "Privacy impact assessments are a common sense approach to help organisations develop privacy friendly ways of working."
The ICO's comments follow news of another potential data breach in the UK, this time at Leeds Building Society which has lost data containing the personal details of its entire 1000-strong workforce.
According to press reports the data was mislaid when the building society moved its human resources department during a refurbishment of its head office.
Leeds BS has warned staff to be extra vigilant as the data contains bank and salary details. The society says there was no evidence the data had been removed from the building.