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Canadian on course to be information commissioner



Open government advocate Elizabeth Denham named as preferred candidate to succeed Christopher Graham

A well known figure on the international open government and privacy scene has been named as preferred candidate to become the next information commissioner.

Elizabeth Denham, currently the information and privacy commissioner in British Columbia, Canada, will be the first overseas national to hold the post. If her appointment is approved by a pre-scrutiny hearing by the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee, she will take over from the incumbent, Christopher Graham, this summer.

Denham will be the fifth person to hold the post since it was created as the data protection registrar in 1984, and unlike any of her predecessors she comes to the role with a track record of opening government data. While freedom of information became part of the commissioner’s brief under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, ensuring that data is digital and machine-readable has never been a priority for the office.

The Government said that Denham was selected for the role following a recruitment process overseen by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments and will serve a term of five years.

Rapid pace

Denham said: “I believe the rapid pace of technological change we face will continue to accelerate and present challenges to information rights – we must ensure access to information while maintaining high standards of data protection. The Information Commissioner’s Office has a global reputation for practical, innovative and responsive regulation. I look forward to contributing to this work.”

In her current role, Denham clashed with the Canadian government over its practice of ‘triple deleting’ emails to prevent them coming under scrutiny. 

Before her appointment in British Columbia, she served as assistant privacy commissioner of Canada, where she led an investigation into the privacy practices of Facebook which resulted in global changes to the social networking site.

Transparency and information rights featured prominently in the new Canadian federal government’s manifesto. Promises include an amendment to the Access to Information Act so that all government data and information is made open by default in machine-readable, digital formats.

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