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ICO to create government affairs team



Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham points to need for proactive approach and for government to deal effectively with FoI requests

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is planning to set up a dedicated parliamentary and government affairs team in London with the aim of increasing its influence on the formulation of relevant laws and regulations.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham (pictured) has included the plan among a list of measures that also takes in a review of how public authorities respond to Freedom of Information (FoI) requests and guidance on the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Speaking at the annual conference of the National Association of Data Protection and Freedom of Information Officers this week, Denham highlighted plans for a number of new appointments within the ICO.

The government affairs team is intended to “play a proactive role in our dealings with government and an even stronger connection with the law makers”. She said it would have a small office in London as a satellite from ICO headquarters in Wilmslow, Cheshire.

Management changes

The senior management structure of the ICO will change to include two deputy commissioners – one to oversee policy issues, the other for operations – a deputy chief executive office and a new chief technology officer. A senior legal counsel will also be appointed to build up the organisation’s expertise ahead any new law, and the international team is to be reinforced to extend its influence overseas.

Denham emphasised the importance of the FoI Act – which the ICO has the responsibility of enforcing – and that it is important to get the day-to-day compliance working effectively.

She said it does not just involve “the big stuff”, such as access to information and proactive transparency. “It also means things like proper records management and retention policies that don’t just sit on a shelf gathering dust, but on which staff are properly trained and properly followed.

“I’ve already been clear that I think government could do more to include private bodies that are basically doing work on behalf of the public. And I want to review what we’re doing when public authorities aren’t dealing with requests quick enough, whether we’re talking local authorities or central government departments.”

GDPR priorities

She added that the ICO is helping to produce guidance on the GDPR, which is due to come into force next year and which the UK will adhere to despite its plans to leave the EU. This will cover a number of priority areas such as the role of data protection officers and the new right of data portability.

“The big change is about giving consumers control of their data,” she said. “I believe this is a positive development.

“Consumers get that they sometimes have to share some of their personal data to get the best service from organisations, or where there are pressing public policy needs that must be met, life fighting crime and protecting the vulnerable.

“But they’re right to expect that information be kept safe, be used transparently and for organisations to demonstrate their accountability for their compliance.”

The guidance is due to be finalised by the end of this year.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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