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Elizabeth Denham Approved as Next ICO

Elizabeth Denham Approved as Next ICO

Canadian Elizabeth Denham has been approved by parliament as the new head of the UK’s data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), and will have her work cut out when she takes over this summer.

Denham was announced as culture secretary John Whittingdale’s preferred candidate for the role a month ago and has now passed her final hurdle – a grilling by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

The current British Columbia information and privacy commissioner will take over from Christopher Graham in the hot seat for a period of five years.

Graham served seven years in the end having extended his initial term, but is prevented from continuing by the terms of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

Denham has a fine track record in her home country, where she was director at the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta, from 2003-2007, and then assistant privacy commissioner of Canada for three years, before taking up her role in British Columbia.

In the country’s westernmost province, she is apparently responsible for enforcing the Canadian Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), and the Lobbyists Registration Act (LRA).

“I am delighted that Elizabeth Denham is set to take over as the next information commissioner. Elizabeth is an experienced information rights practitioner, essential when the ICO is busier than ever and facing the challenges of the digital age,” said Graham in a statement.

Indeed, Denham will arrive in the UK at a time when data protection has never been further up the boardroom agenda, or foremost in the minds of politicians.

Depending on the result of the European referendum, she could be in charge of corralling public and private sector organizations as they prepare for the coming EU General Data Protection Regulation, set to land on 4 May 2018.

As one of the biggest revisions to European privacy laws in a generation, it’ll be no small task. Trend Micro research released earlier this month claimed a fifth (20%) of UK IT decision makers are still unaware of its existence.

If the UK votes to leave the EU, her role may become even more important, in advising on a vital replacement framework for the EU GDPR. If one is not agreed it could severely impact the UK’s digital economy and lead to a stalemate of the sort seen recently over a successor to the US-EU Safe Harbor agreement.

Denham now only requires rubber-stamp approval from the Queen before taking up her role in the summer.

Source: Information Security Magazine