Tag Archives: Data Privacy

ICO requires “stronger powers” and “a clearer guarantee of independence”

UK Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has warned it has never been more important that the general public has an independent regulator overseeing the handling of people’s personal data.

Speaking at the launch of the Information Commissioner’s Office’s (ICO) Annual Report earlier today, Christopher Graham highlighted how the troubled launch of care.data, Facebook’s research and the so-called Google ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling show why there’s a need to have an independent regulator.

Christopher Graham: the Information Commissioner

Christopher Graham: the Information Commissioner

Graham also warned that independence relies on strong powers and sustainable funding.

The Annual Report shows that the ICO responded to a record number of data protection and Freedom of Information complaints this year.

Sometimes the State is the issue

“Facebook, care.data, Google: it’s clear that organisations’ use of data is getting ever more complicated,” stressed Graham. “People need to know someone is watching over their information. That someone needs to be independent of Government and business so the public know the regulator can be trusted. Sometimes the State is itself the issue. When the Intelligence and Security Committee wanted to know how the Snowden revelations fitted with data protection law, it turned to the Information Commissioner.”

Graham added: “Independence means someone who has the resources to take on this ever-growing number of cases. The last twelve months have witnessed a record – more complaints resolved than ever, more enforcement action taken and more advice given through our Helpline. It also means having the powers to act on the more serious complaints. A strong regulator is needed if a data breach affects millions of people.”

In conclusion, the Information Commissioner explained: “That someone is the Information Commissioner. We’re effective, efficient and busier than ever but, to do our job properly and to represent people properly, we need stronger powers, more sustainable funding and a clearer guarantee of independence.”

The report’s figures in detail

This year’s Annual Report shows that the ICO has handled 259,903 calls to its Helpline and resolved 15,492 data protection complaints – in both cases a rise of over 10% on the previous financial year.

The ICO has also decided on 5,296 Freedom of Information complaints (a 12% rise on last year’s figure), and received 161,720 reports from people concerned about spam texts and nuisance calls.

For the past five years the ICO has faced a reduction in its funding for FOI, while the proposed EU data protection reforms would remove the notification fee that funds the ICO’s work under the Data Protection Act.

The ICO’s written submission to the Intelligence and Security Committee in February is now available.

The Information Commissioner will appear before the Intelligence and Security Committee in the autumn.

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Home Secretary Theresa May: ‘UK needs capability to defend its citizens’

The world is a dangerous place and the UK must maintain its capability to defend its citizens in the digital age, Home Secretary Theresa May has stated.

Speaking at the annual Lord Mayor’s Defence and Security Lecture in London, the Home Secretary talked of the threat the country faces, including that from British people returning home from the conflict in Syria.

The Home Secretary said that threat – whether from terrorism or organised crime – is changing fast and, on that basis, the UK needs the capabilities to defend its interests and protect its citizens.

Home Secretary Theresa May MP

Home Secretary Theresa May MP

Theresa May stressed it was important to talk about the balance between privacy and security “in the full context of the threats we face” rather than “in a strange vacuum, as if the debate was entirely academic”.

The Home Secretary stated: “The terrorist threats to this country and our interests are changing faster than at any time since 9/11. We continue to face possible attacks by Al Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but we face further threats from Syria and now from Iraq where Al Qaida, ISIL and others have created a safe haven with substantial resources including advanced technology and weapons.”

May continued: “They are on the doorstep of Europe, just a few hours’ flying time from London, and they want to attack us – not just in Syria or Iraq but here in Britain.”

Challenges to be faced

The Home Secretary told the guests at Mansion House that it’s important to be clear about the UK’s capabilities and the challenges faced in maintaining them in a digital age.

“We are living more of our lives online, using an array of new technology,” said May. “This is hugely liberating and a great opportunity for economic growth. However, this technology has become essential not just to the likes of you and me but also to organised criminals and terrorists.”

The Home Secretary added: “Far from having some fictitious mastery over all this technology we, in democratic states, face the significant risk of being caught out by it. Governments have always reserved the power to monitor communications and to collect data about communications when it’s necessary and proportionate to do so. It is much harder now – there is more data, we do not own it and we can no longer always obtain it. I know some people will say ‘hurrah for that’ – but the result is that we are in danger of making the Internet an ungoverned, ungovernable space and a safe haven for terrorism and criminality.”

Loss of capability: the great danger

The Home Secretary described loss of capability as “the great danger we face”. May said: “The real problem is not that we have built an over-mighty state but that the state is finding it harder to fulfil its most basic duty which is to protect the public. That is why I have said before – and I will go on saying – that we need to make changes to the law to maintain the capabilities we require.”

In conclusion, Theresa May explained: “Yes, we have to make sure that the capabilities can only be used with the right authorisation and with appropriate oversight, but this is quite simply a question of life and death. A matter of national security. We must keep on making the case until we get the changes we need.”

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