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Information Commissioner’s Office publishes three-year plan


Mark Say Managing Editor

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ICO25 report cover
Image source: ICO

Initiatives on biometrics, fairness in algorithms and guidance for the public sector on freedom of information are among the measures in the new ICO25 plan from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Launching the three-year plan yesterday, the ICO said it sets out a commitment to safeguard the information rights of the most vulnerable people, including regulatory work around children’s privacy, AI-driven discrimination, the use of algorithms within the benefits system and the impact of predatory marketing calls.

It takes in four strategic objectives: to safeguard and empower people; empower responsible innovation economic growth; promote openness, transparency and accountability; and to continuously develop the ICO’s culture, capability and capacity.

Among a wide range of measures directed at public and private sectors, it includes a focus on the often controversial use of biometric technologies such as gait analysis, facial recognition, iris scanning and fingerprint recognition.

Alert to risks

The document says: “While these biometrics have immense promise, we also need to be alert to risks – especially around emotion recognition technologies which can discriminate against certain vulnerable groups.

“We will be working with industry to set out our expectations on how these technologies should be used and investigating how these technologies are being deployed for any adverse impacts on vulnerable groups.”

It also points towards setting out expectations through refreshed guidance for AI developers on ensuring that algorithms treat people and their information fairly – reflecting one of the major concerns about the increased use of the technology in public services.

Other plans focus on the interactions between the public sector and the public around freedom of information and data protection.

Subject access request generator

One is to develop a subject access request generator to help people firstly identify where their personal information may or is likely to be held, and how to request it in ways which will assist organisations to respond effectively. The tool will generate a template from the ICO that the requester is able to send to the organisation and the organisation will receive information from the ICO to help them respond quickly and simply.

Another is to support administration of the Freedom of Information Act and the Environment Information practice framework by helping public authorities to be more open through advice, tools, practice directions and promoting the routine publication of information.

The document also reiterates the recently announced plan to revise the approach for public sector fines and enforcement for breaking regulations; and points to an effort to measure the ICO’s work in encouraging transparency in the public sector.

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