Information commissioner’s term extended to allow successor recruitment

Written by Sam Trendall on 27 January 2021 in News
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Elizbeth Denham will remain in post until November, at request of secretary of state

 

Credit: ICO/CC BY-SA 4.0

The UK’s information commissioner Elizabeth Denham will remain in post for several months beyond her agreed term to ensure government has enough time to recruit her successor.

Denham was appointed on 18 July 2016, replacing the previous commissioner Christopher Graham. She was appointed to a predefined term of office of five years, due to conclude this summer.

But the government announced this week that her term will be extended to 31 October. This is at the request of Oliver Dowden, the secretary for digital, culture, media and sport.

The cabinet minister has asked the commissioner to stay on “while the recruitment process for her successor is completed”, according to DCMS.


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Denham arrived at the ICO from her native Canada, where she previously held a post as information and privacy commissioner for the province of British Columbia. It emerged last summer that she returned to her home country during the early part of the coronavirus crisis and then, for some months, fulfilled her duties as head of the UK data watchdog remotely – from the other side of the Atlantic ocean.

Her time in office has been an eventful one, including the 2018 introduction of the European General Data Protection Regulation. 

The ICO was also already in the midst of an investigation into the use of data and analytics in political campaigning when news broke of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In light of the incident, the regulator ended up fining Facebook £500,000 – the maximum amount allowed under pre-GDPR laws.

Since the introduction of the new legislation, the ICO has levied fines of as much as £20m. Although this penalty, imposed on British Airways, was significantly reduced from the originally intended punishment of £183m.

Under Denham’s leadership, the watchdog has also sharpened its focus on the privacy implications of digital platforms and devices, appointing its first-ever technology director and undertaking investigations into emerging tech such as automatic facial-recognition systems.

 

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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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