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Suzanne Townley

News Editor, Solicitors Journal

New year, new Information Commissioner

New year, new Information Commissioner


John Edwards succeeds Elizabeth Denham in the top role

The UK’s new Information Commissioner, John Edwards (pictured), started in office today (Tuesday 4 January). He has succeeded Elizabeth Denham CBE, whose term came to an end last year.

Edwards has spent the last eight years as New Zealand Privacy Commissioner. During that time, he chaired the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (now known as the Global Privacy Assembly), and was a member of the OECD’s Informal Group of Experts on Children in the Digital Environment.

Prior to his role as New Zealand Privacy Commissioner, Edwards worked as a solicitor and barrister for over 14 years, including time as a policy adviser to the New Zealand Prime Minister and Cabinet around Freedom of Information.

Edwards commented: “Privacy is a right not a privilege. In a world where our personal data can drive everything from the healthcare we receive to the job opportunities we see, we all deserve to have our data treated with respect.

“My role is to work with those to whom we entrust our data so they are able to respect our privacy with ease whilst still reaping the benefits of data-driven innovation. I also want to empower people to understand and influence how they want their data to be used, and to make it easy for people to access remedies if things go wrong”.

He added that the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is “entirely dedicated to privacy and information rights, and to supporting organisations and consumers alike”. Edwards said he would continue to promote the ICO’s international reputation for “forward thinking and clear assessment of the practicalities of the law”.

Edwards said he welcomed the opportunity to oversee the Freedom of Information Act: “Transparency that helps people understand and trust decisions made on their behalf has perhaps never been as relevant as across the past two years. I look forward to ensuring the law continues to be relevant in our changing world.”

This year, the ICO will be actively engaged with the government over proposed reforms to the Data Protection Act and the introduction of the Online Safety Bill. The regulator said it will also continue to prioritise its work to protect children online, through the Age Appropriate Design Code.