Who: The Information Commissioner’s Office
When: July 2015
Where: Wilmslow, Cheshire
Law stated as at: 14 July 2015
The UK’s information watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) launched its Annual Report and Financial Statements for 2014/2015 (“Report”).
The writer attended the launch event in Whitehall.
Here are some nuggets from the launch event and the Report, in no particular order:
- ICO’s Wilmslow office is celebrating its 30th birthday and the special guest at the party that the Commissioner Christopher Graham was returning to that evening was going to be Eric Howe, the very first information commissioner, or “Data Protection Registrar” as the nation’s data regulator in chief was then called;
- something of a changing of the guard is afoot at ICO, with long-serving Deputy Commissioner David Smith due to retire later in 2015 and the Commissioner Christopher Graham himself due to step down at the end of his second and last permitted tour of duty in June 2016;
- over 2014/2015 ICO received just over 180,000 reports of concerns over breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (“PCRs”), an 11% increase on the previous year which was driven principally by nuisance calls, whose exponents were dubbed the “Merchants of Menace” by the Commissioner, and nuisance texts;
- concerns about nuisance calls were split roughly equally between telesales where the call recipient spoke to a person live (broadly acceptable provided either a pre call check with the UK do not call list, the “Telephone Preference Service,” has not found the number or the call recipient has not previously told the caller direct that such calls should not be made) and those where a recorded voice was heard (if made using automated calling systems, only acceptable if the call recipient has previously opted in);
- the top five “topics” for PCRs concerns were: boilers (17% and something of a surprise chart topper) ), accident claims (14%), solar panels (13%), PPI (11%) and insulation (9%);
- despite the looming abolition of the “notification” system for data controllers once EU data protection law reforms are in force, and with it, the ICO’s principal income stream, there is still no clarity as to how this yawning gap in funding will be filled:
Why this matters:
Thirty years on and with staff numbers having increased from the initial 10 to over 400, the ICO has come a long way and garnered widespread respect for the largely impressive job it has done. Commissioner Christopher Graham will also be a hard act to follow in the summer of 2016 and his successor will need their wits about them, particularly if the future funding challenge has not been resolved by then.