The United Kingdom appoints a new Information Commissioner

Posted April 29, 2016
Written by Mark Heyink
Correction: Appointment of the Information Regulator in South Africa

In my previous article relating to the appointment of the Information Regulator I indicated that nominees for the positions in the office of the Information Regulator had been interviewed on the 19th and 20th April 2016. I now been advised that while interviews were initially scheduled for these dates that they did not occur. I have no information relating to the reasons for the delay or when interviews will proceed but will ensure that you are informed of the developments in this regard as soon as I am able to.

The United Kingdom appoints a new Information Commissioner

At a time when in South Africa we are taking our first steps to appointing an Information Regulator the current Information Commissioner in the UK, Mr Christopher Graham, is set to be replaced by Elizabeth Denham at the end of June 2016. The appointment of Ms Denham is interesting as she is a Canadian and currently serves as British Columbia, Canada’s Information and Privacy Commissioner. This illustrates two things, firstly, that the office is seen as so important so as not to confine the selection of the person who will regulate information in the UK’s information society necessarily to a national, but rather to the best person for the job. Secondly, the issue of privacy is not a national issue and cannot be regarded as such. The questions arising and the approach to regulation is increasingly determined by internationally accepted principles, the recognition that information knows no borders and that the right of privacy is a fundamental pillar of democracy.

Ms Denham’s credentials are impressive and while she is clearly competent in the administrative skills that are necessary for the operation of a Data Protection Regulator, it is also clear that she has both the privacy acumen and courage to challenge the largest tech companies, and has done so in her current position. Further, her history evidences her independence and preparedness to act against government agencies who have overreached their statutory powers.

Whoever may be appointed as Information Regulator in South Africa will do well to follow her approach, highlighted in a quote from her interview for the position:

“It’s my attitude of enforcement that you start from the place where you educate, share best practices, audit, then move on to companies with bad attitudes. Clearing them out or getting them to responsibly process personal information is healthy and necessary for the digital economy.”

We can only hope that whoever is appointed the Information Regulator in South Africa evidences the privacy acumen and the courage necessary to redress the unregulated plunder of personal information of South African citizens and the significant deficiencies in information security that is a feature of the South African digital landscape.

©Mark Heyink 2016
www.privacyonline.co.za

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