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Interesting times, and how we navigate them

Blog posted by: Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner, May 25, 2017.

I remember hearing my predecessor talk about a Chinese saying “may you live in interesting times”.

I think it’s fair to say we’re living in them!

My term in office is five years, and it’s abundantly clear to me as the first year draws to a close, ‘interesting times’ will be a recurring theme of my term. GDPR, Brexit, and whatever follows those two. Add to that a general election too.

But while the exact form of the legislation may vary the route, the direction of travel for privacy and data rights is still the same. Consumers aren’t concerned about the details of the GDPR, or what legislation might follow it. They’re asking questions such as: “Is my data properly protected? Who’s holding organisations to account? What privacy rights do I have?”

As a regulator, the ICO needs to continue to be relevant: listening to consumer and citizen concerns and providing an answer to their questions. These interesting times are a powerful opportunity to demonstrate our relevance by having a positive and direct impact on public trust.

And that’s what our new Information Rights Strategic Plan, launched today, is all about. It’s not about paperwork, or policies, or procedures. It’s about how we make the work we do in Wilmslow, in London, in Belfast, in Edinburgh and in Cardiff, make a difference to the trust people have in what happens to their personal data.

Trust in data flows is fundamental to people engaging in the digital economy. Trust in both privacy and Freedom of Information regulation is fundamental to democracy. Open government, freedom of information and data innovation are all dependent on a transparent approach to information management.

This Information Rights Strategic Plan sets out my mission to increase the confidence that the public has in government, public bodies and the private sector.

It commits us to leading implementation and effective oversight of the General Data Protection Regulation and other data protection reforms.

It commits us to exploring innovative and technologically agile ways of protecting privacy.

It commits us to strengthening transparency and accountability and promoting good information governance.

And it commits us to protecting the public in a digital world.

I hope when you read this plan, you’ll see that it is a practical document. It is a guide to how the ICO will evolve to make sure we’re staying relevant, and making a difference to the trust people have in what happens to their personal data.

We start from a position of strength. Today, the ICO is at the centre of policy discussions, guidance, direct advice to the public, and enforcement of the UK’s data protection and freedom of information laws; shaping how emerging technologies and information practices impact the lives of the UK public.

We have interesting times ahead, but this document will be the map that guides us.

Elizabeth Denham was appointed UK Information Commissioner on 15 July 2016, having previously held the position of Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, Canada.

 

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