Information Commissioner speaks out on regulating data protection in 2021

The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, spoke recently at the Oxford Internet Institute about the ICO’s work and about some of the broader issues around the regulation of data protection today.

Denham explained that the ICO is responsible for regulating data protection and other statutes around information rights including freedom of information law. Her role, she said, is essentially about supporting trust in the innovative data use.

She noted that contact tracing apps and health data stats are never far from the news. We are growing used to temperature checking at airports, employers monitoring employee health status, and businesses recording the details of every customer, she said, while vaccination passport proposals prompt talk of ID cards.

Denham said her office had been at the centre of many of the key issues that have impacted our lives over the past year. As we enter 2021, she argued, digital and data-driven innovation will be central to the UK’s economic recovery, but the full benefits of innovation can only be unlocked with public support.

‘From FRT to NHS contact tracing apps,’ Denham said, ‘I’ve seen that demonstrating good data protection compliance is crucial to building and maintaining public trust. To make the most of this moment of opportunity, we need to think about how we ensure that as many people as possible understand how their data contributes in a positive way.’

Privacy protections need to be built in from the ground up, she argued. ‘We need to take the time to explain to people how their data is being used, even when that is difficult. We need to be asking ourselves, not what can we do with people’s data, but what is fair?’.

You can read her speech in full by clicking here.

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