Information rights in the spotlight in ICO’s three-year plan

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has unveiled its corporate plan for the next three years with the focus very much on ‘information rights’.

Mar 21, 2013
By Paul Jacques
Graeme Biggar

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has unveiled its corporate plan for the next three years with the focus very much on ‘information rights’.

Speaking at the sixth annual Data Protection Officer Conference in Manchester earlier this month, Information Commissioner Christopher Graham said the ICO faced of a series of policy challenges, starting with the draft EU data protection regulation.

The new privacy framework – which has sparked data sharing concerns among British businesses and global internet firms – provides a single set of European rules on data protection that are valid across all Member States and establishes each national data protection authority as a one-stop-shop for businesses and citizens in each Member State.

“The ICO will need to lead the implementation of the new rules across the UK. But, under the current proposals, the ICO would also have to shift the focus towards processes and permissions with less emphasis on the advice and guidance role the ICO has traditionally championed,” said Mr Graham. Another “known unknown”, said Mr Graham, is the future shape of the ICO’s freedom of information work.

“We await the Government’s proposals following the post-legislative scrutiny of the operation of the Freedom of Information Act,” he said. “A policy of discouraging requests and appeals through changes to the cost limits or application fees for the tribunal could, in turn, shrink the freedom of information caseload. On the other hand, current trends show a remorseless rise in demand for our services under the Act.

“Lord Justice Leveson called for changes in data protection law as it applies to the media. He also suggested reconstituting the ICO as a commission with a board of commissioners, in place of the information commissioner in whom all legal powers are currently vested personally as ‘corporate sole’.

Both these proposed changes will now be the subject of public consultation and debate. Their implementation would clearly have a significant impact on the ICO.”

He added that strategic thinking was needed at the ICO and strategic decisions were required from the Government and Parliament to address the options and the opportunities.

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