Public Services > Central Government

ICO targets technical capability overhaul despite lack of Triennial review

Neil Merrett Published 28 June 2016

UK information commissioner Christopher Graham steps down from his role today calling for delayed government review of its structure and operations to be published


The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has started the process of responding to the delayed triennial review of its operations by expanding its IT expertise and technical teams, calling on government to now publish the full findings of its report.

Under the terms of the unpublished review, which looked at the functions and structure of the ICO as the UK's data regulator, the organisation expects to bring in five additional staff to deal with technically challenging cases around hacking and website vulnerabilities.

Speaking on his final day as UK information commissioner, Christopher Graham said the review, which he described as "the thing that never happened", was previously to be released before last May's General Election in order to set out future direction to adjust with a changing European data protection environment.

"Then the General Election comes along and it hadn't been finished, then after [the vote] it was machinery of government changes so nothing was going to happen. After the machinery of government changes then it was the referendum," he claimed.

"There is a really chunky report that we would like to see published, because we know it said some very complimentary things about the way the ICO was operating. But I'm sure the ministers will decide what they want to do about it, as it was a government not an ICO project. But we put a lot of effort into responding to all the questions and challenges in the review and I would really like to see it out."

Graham noted that the ICO had also been working with government around trying to set out new funding arrangements for the data regulator to carry out its future functions - something he described as a vitally important £18m' issue for the regulator.

The organisation said it was "actively pursuing options" with the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), which sponsors the ICO, to determine how the regulator will be financed.

Presenting the ICO's 2015/16 annual report, Graham noted that with the UK expected to shortly start negotiations on leaving the EU following last week's referendum, there were no definitive answers to many questions on the impact to data protection regulations in the UK.

"Over the coming weeks, the ICO will be discussing with government the implications of the referendum result and its impact on data protection reform in the United Kingdom. With so many businesses and services operating across borders, international consistency around data protection laws and information rights is crucial," he said.

Graham said that the ICO had always sought to work with other national data regulators, adding that he expected this to continue.

He added that the growing digital economy meant it was more vital than ever to have clear laws with safeguards in place to try and modernise its operations.

With the new information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham expected to take up her position next month, Graham said the ICO would make the case for having the highest data protection standards going forward and assist organisations to navigate the "turbulent waters" of the next two years.

"It would be a very good place to start, if we can just succeed in complying with the data protection principles, so that whatever emerges continues to uphold information rights in the public interest," he added.

According to the latest ICO findings, healthcare was the sector that had seen the most concerns raised with the ICO during 2015/16 amounting to 12% of responses in the period. Local government was the joint third sector of concern, representing 10% of total issues.

The three largest reasons behind these concerns according to the report were subject access, disclosure of data and inaccurate information, amounting for 426, 18% and 14% of all inquiries raised during the period respectively.

Related articles:

ICO commences work on EU data protection reform guidance

ICO chief calls for more clarity on surveillance powers

ICO outlines managerial overhaul ahead of 'Triennial Review'

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