The scandal has come to light in recent days after claims that a report criticising the CQC was held back by a senior manager at the organisation. It came after it was criticised for its response to complaints about several deaths at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria.
Health minister Jeremy Hunt has called the situation “unacceptable” and there have been calls for those responsible to be named.
"There should be no anonymity, no hiding place, no opportunity to get off scot free for anyone at all who was responsible for this,” Hunt said.
The CQC had said doing so would be in breach of the DPA. However, speaking on BBC Breakfast on Thursday morning, information commissioner Christopher Graham said that the DPA cannot be used to hide behind when there is public interest in a case such as this.
“What appeared to be going on yesterday was a sort of general duck-out, saying, 'Oh, data protection, sorry can't help you.' That's all too common and in this case it certainly looked as if data protection really wasn't the issue," he said.
"So far as the Data Protection Act is concerned, we all have a right to the protection of our personal privacy, but if you are a senior official then there are issues about the point at which your privacy is set aside because of over-riding public interest. That's really the issue at stake here," he said.
The CQC said it is now reviewing legal advice to see if it can give out the names of those involved.
The comments echo numerous prior statements made by Graham over the years, where organisations have attempted to use the DPA as a means of avoiding their obligations to release data when it was required and legally permissible to do so.