Outgoing Information Commissioner reflects on ‘big beast of a job’

26 November 2021, 00:04

Elizabeth Denham
Outgoing Information Commissioner reflects on ‘big beast of a job’. Picture: PA

Elizabeth Denham departs the role regulating data and privacy in the UK this week, with New Zealander John Edwards taking over.

Outgoing Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has said she is proud her leadership forced tech giants to take children’s data more seriously on a global scale.

The Canadian leaves the “big beast of a job” in the UK this week after more than five years, handing the reins over to New Zealander John Edwards.

Banning of location tracking and profiling of children are among 15 standards that came into force in September, which led to the likes of YouTube, TikTok and Instagram making sweeping changes not only for users in the UK but across the world.

Tech firms that fail to follow the Age Appropriate Design Code face large fines.

Reflecting on her time as Information Commissioner, Ms Denham told the PA news agency: “I think it’s the work that I’m most proud of because we can already see that the kids’ code, with its base level of protection by default, we can already see that’s making a change.

“I’m pleased to see the response but we’re now doing a sweep of the top 50 service providers for kids to see how they are complying with the code, so we’ve rolled up our sleeves and we’re doing that sweep right now.”

Since joining, Ms Denham has seen staff numbers at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) increase from around 400 in 2016 to more than 800.

As the public become more conscious of their personal data and how it is used, the departing privacy tsar expects more change on the horizon.

“We’ve brought in more expertise, economists, AI specialists, technical staff, so I think that’s positive,” she told PA.

“Given the role that data plays in our society I think we’re only going need to continue to grow in at least our capacity to address these issues.”

John Edwards
John Edwards is the UK’s new Information Commissioner (PA)

Ms Denham said she has known Mr Edwards for more than a decade and described him as an “international leader”.

“I’m absolutely delighted that he has been the successful candidate for Information Commissioner because I think he brings pragmatism, and deep content experience, I know he’s respected around the world,” she said.

“Although he’s coming from another country, just as I did from Canada, it’s a Commonwealth country with similar legal framework and parliamentary framework, so I think that’s really helpful.”

When he was grilled by MPs in September, Mr Edwards defended Ms Denham’s decision to raid two homes in relation to leaked CCTV footage that led to Matt Hancock quitting as health secretary.

He was also asked about his thoughts on Facebook, after calling the tech giant “morally bankrupt, pathological liars” in the wake of the Christchurch attacks in 2019.

“That tweet came from a very profound context of national shock and grief at a very egregious terrorist act that was facilitated, amplified and propagated through that particular platform,” he said.

“Facebook and every other organisation which is subject to the ICO’s jurisdiction can expect a fair and impartial inquiry when I occupy that role, without predetermination.”

By Press Association

More Technology News

See more More Technology News

Houses of Parliament

Online porn normalises behaviours not appropriate for wooing a woman, warns peer

A screenshot from Joe Danger

Developer brings back iPhone game after request from parent of child with autism

A young girl uses the TikTok app on a smartphone

TikTok adds new features to educate users on the Holocaust and antisemitism

The Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot

Robot performs keyhole surgery on pig without human help for first time

A teenager holding a controller to play the video game Forza Motorsport 5 on a Microsoft Xbox One console

Xbox to offer certain Live Gold and Game Pass subscribers refunds

Internet Browsing Stock

Government forms expert council to promote smoother data transfers and trade

Child using a laptop

Illegal and harmful content could evade new online safety laws, MPs warn

An Amazon Echo smart speaker

Alexa virtual assistant returns after service outage

Alexa device

Amazon’s Alexa down for users in UK

There have been concerns about 5G interference with plane equipment, leading to flights being cancelled

Flights to US grounded as fears grow over 5G interference with aircraft equipment

Cyber attacks have doubled in past year, GCHQ director warns

New laws proposed to boost UK business cyber security

A British Airways plane

British Airways cancels US flights over 5G safety fears

A woman using a laptop

Royal Society: Content removal alone will not halt internet misinformation

Instagram and TikTok logos

Social media platforms ‘must refund victims’ who have been defrauded

Artist Kaws

AR exhibition to explore ‘parallel realities’ via Fortnite collaboration

LabVPN is no longer available for use after an international law enforcement operation shut it down

Encryption service ‘linked to cyber attacks’ taken down in international sting