On 4 January 2022, John Edwards commenced his five-year term as the new Information Commissioner UK. Edwards replaces Elizabeth Denham in the role and aims to embrace the challenges of ensuring that data privacy and freedom of information rights continue to be upheld and trusted.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (the “ICO”) is the UK’s independent regulator for data protection and information rights law. It has special responsibilities as set out in the Data Protection Act 2018 amongst other pieces of legislation. The ICO can take action (including criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audits) to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. Edwards will oversee the proposed Government reforms to the UK data protection regime, the next steps on the ICO’s draft international data transfer agreement and the Online Safety Bill.
Edwards has a wealth of experience within data protection; he was educated in New Zealand achieving a Bachelor of Laws and a Masters in Public Policy. He then practiced as a solicitor and barrister for over 14 years. Between 2014 and 2021 he was the New Zealand Privacy Commissioner.
Edwards recognises the benefits of a digital economy and the changing landscape of data processing; he has said that his main priorities as Information Commissioner UK are to demonstrate to stakeholders that data protection and GDPR are not impediments to innovation, growth and the use of data. He wishes to reduce compliance costs, particularly for SMEs, but whilst doing this, he wishes to ensure that the UK are certain of a stable and fair regulator in which they can have confidence that their personal data will be processed appropriately and kept safe.
Edwards has big shoes to fill, Elizabeth Denham was Information Commissioner UK for five years and in her time welcomed GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018; she has now taken a position in a global law firm.
For more information on Data Protection & GDPR and to find members of our teams that can assist you visit our Data Protection & GDPR page on our website.