The Data Protection Commissioner has uncovered serious incidents of inappropriate access to personal data records in the insurance industry.

The details are contained in the commissioner's annual report, which was published today.

The report found that Insurance Link, which contains the details of around 2.5 million claims and is used mostly by the insurance industry to cross check information, has a serious lack of respect for data protection rights.

An investigation found little or no oversight of the system, too many people with access and serious incidents of inappropriate access.

Insurance staff were viewing the details of family, friends, celebrities and people who had featured in newspaper stories and data about vehicles and properties that were for sale.

The commissioner said this year there was a 350% rise in the number of reports for data protection breaches.

The commissioner said this was due, in part, to a new code of practice, which came into effect in July.

His report also highlights cases of banks marketing to their customers based on direct debit information.

There were also a number of complaints about CCTV, including one school in Co Kildare that was ordered to remove cameras it installed in the toilet.

Investigations also found that charities were retaining PPS numbers of donors.

The commissioner also saw a rise in the number of complaints about schools, workplaces and commercial premises using biometric systems to record attendance.