Recruitment launched for new £200k information commissioner

Appointee will replace Elizabeth Denham and will lead the data-protection watchdog through a ‘dynamic period of change’

Credit: Innov8Social/CC BY 2.0

The government has kicked off the process of recruiting a new information commissioner, with a salary of £200,000 a year on offer for the successful candidate.

The appointee will replace Elizabeth Denham, whose five-year term was due to conclude this summer, but has been extended to the end of October to allow sufficient time for her replacement to be hired. 

Whoever succeeds Denham will be responsible for leading the Information Commissioner’s Office – the UK’s data-protection regulator. The organisation is responsible for enforcing legislation such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation, and its UK analogue the Data Protection Act.

Since these tougher laws were introduced in 2018, the ICO has wielded its powers to issue respective fines of £20m and £18.4m for data breaches at British Airways and hotel chain Marriott. However, these figures were greatly reduced from the originally intended penalties of £183m and £99m.

The regulator is also responsible for overseeing the Freedom of Information act and ensuring public bodies comply their transparency obligations under the legislation.

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The job advert indicates that the new information commissioner will also play a key role in supporting the rollout of the recently published National Data Strategy.

“The [strategy] sets out its ambition for the UK’s pro-growth and trusted data regime, one that helps innovators and entrepreneurs to use data responsibly and securely, without undue regulatory uncertainty or risk, in order to drive growth across the economy,” it says. “Data is a strategic asset and its responsible use should be seen as a huge opportunity to embrace. Getting this right is critical to jobs and growth as the UK economy becomes increasingly digitised and data-enabled. We also want the public to be active agents in a thriving digital economy, who have confidence and trust in how data, including personal data, is used. This will mean maintaining high standards of data protection without creating unnecessary barriers to data use.”

It adds: “We are looking for an outstanding individual to become the next information commissioner, who understands the importance of striking this balance and delivering on this critical agenda. The information commissioner has a key role to play to drive the responsible use of data across the economy, to build trust and confidence, and to communicate the wider benefits of data sharing for our society as well as for competition, innovation and growth.”

Applications for the role are open until 28 March and, a week or two thereafter, these will be sifted through by a panel chaired by Susannah Storey – the director general for digital and media policy at the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 

Author and former investment banker Philip Augar will serve as an independent panel member, as will two others who have yet to be confirmed.

The panel will conduct final interviews with shortlisted candidates during the last two weeks of April, and an appointment will be announced some time thereafter.

The successful applicant will, subject to parliamentary approval, receive an annual salary of £200,000 and will be based at the ICO’s headquarters in Wilmslow in Cheshire. 

Whoever is appointed can expect to “steer the ICO through a dynamic period of change, refining processes and decision-making”, the job advert said.


Sam Trendall

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