Jonathan Edwards, previously New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner, last week succeeded Elizabeth Denham as UK Information Commissioner. The new head of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is faced with a plethora of information rights issues.
Notably, the ICO is engaging with Government over proposed reforms to the Data Protection Act following Brexit. Last year, the PPA responded to a Government consultation on the plans, informed by an expert group drawn from member organisations. The ICO has previously stated: ‘As the proposals are developed, the devil will be in the detail. It will be important that Government ensures the final package of reforms clearly maintain rights for individuals, minimise burdens for business and safeguard the independence of the regulator.’
Also of relevance to publishers, the ICO is engaging with Government over the introduction of the Online Safety Bill. The Bill will place a ‘duty of care’ on digital platforms to combat illegal content, content that is harmful to children, and content that is harmful to adults. Protections are proposed for ‘recognised news publishers’ and a broader swathe of content produced for the purposes of journalism.
In addition, the ICO is currently reviewing submissions made concerning its consultation on a draft Journalism Code of Practice, including a response sent by PPA. The Code, which is statutory under section 124 of the Data Protection Act 2018, provides practical guidance to help journalists and media lawyers understand data protection law and comply effectively with its requirements. The ICO will also develop complementary resources to support more day-to-day journalism and smaller organisations.
In his application for the role of Commissioner, Edwards stated: "It will be a priority for me and my team to identify ways in which we can reduce compliance costs, particularly for small to medium enterprises, by providing them with tools to understand and apply the law without the need to incur large professional fees."