HomeInsightsInformation Commissioner gives speech at annual Data Protection Practitioners’ Conference 2018

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Elizabeth Denham commenced with recent events, saying that “it’s been an eventful few weeks” and that these are “interesting times” due to the revelations surrounding Cambridge Analytica’s alleged use of personal data in election campaigns, including information gathered from Facebook.

Ms Denham said that it is “worth remembering that this is one part of our larger investigation into the use of personal data analytics for political purposes by political campaigns, parties, social media companies and others.”

Without going into too much detail at this early stage in the investigations, Ms Denham said that one thing was certain: the “dramatic revelations of the last few weeks are a game changer in data protection. Suddenly everyone is paying attention. The media, the public, parliament, the whole darn planet it seems”.

As for the imminent coming into effect of the General Data Protection Regulation on 25 May 2018, Ms Denham said it is a “work in progress for us as I am sure it is for many of you – but we’re making sure we respond to what we hear you need.”

Ms Denham said that, as a result of the GDPR coming into effect, she is expecting more breach reports because the law requires such reports in high-risk cases, more complaints because people will be better informed of their rights, and greater engagement as organisations turn to the ICO for advice. Accordingly, she is strengthening her team in both number and expertise and moving the ICO to “a place where we can deliver our new responsibilities and obligations to organisations and, most importantly the public”.

As for enforcement, Ms Denham said she has “no intention of changing the ICO’s proportionate and pragmatic approach after 25 of May. Hefty fines will be reserved for those organisations that persistently, deliberately or negligently flout the law.”

Ms Denham also announced the launch of a public information campaign: “Your Data Matters”, saying that the ICO has taken “a collaborative approach”, inviting a range of businesses and organisations to work with it to develop baseline educational messages about data protection reform for UK citizens. “These are messages that will help raise awareness but also, I hope, increase trust in our data driven world”, she said.

Finally, Ms Denham said: “25 May is not the end. It is the beginning. This is a long haul journey. But it’s not a holiday. There’s a lot of work to be done along the way.” To read the speech in full, click here.