The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

Date: 15 April 2020
Type: Statement

The ICO has today published a document setting out our regulatory approach during the coronavirus pandemic.

It makes clear what you can expect of us in the coming months.

We acknowledge our responsibility to take into account these exceptional circumstances. We set out the flexibility the law gives us to be a pragmatic and empathetic regulator. We confirm our efforts will be focused on the greatest threats. And we acknowledge the important role that people’s information rights will continue to have.

Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner, said:

“Regulators apply their authority within the larger social and economic situation.

“We see the organisations facing staff and capacity shortages. We see the public bodies facing severe front-line pressures. And we see the many businesses facing acute financial pressures.

“Against this backdrop, it is right that we must adjust our regulatory approach.

“Our UK data protection law is not an obstacle to such flexibility. It explicitly sets out the importance of my office taking regard of the general public interest, and allows for people’s health and safety to be prioritised without the need for legislative amendment.

“A principle underpinning data protection law is that the processing of personal data should be designed to serve mankind. Right now, that means the regulator reflecting these exceptional times, and showing the flexibility that the law allows.

“We must reflect these exceptional times. We will continue to recognise the continuing importance of privacy protections, and the value of transparency provided by freedom of information. These rights are a part of modern life we must not lose. But my office will continue to safeguard information rights in an empathetic and pragmatic way that reflects the impact of coronavirus.

“It is important that we regulate for the time we are in now, but it is important too that we look to the future. Data protection can play a central role in promoting economic growth when we come out of this pandemic: encouraging public trust in innovation and supporting the UK as it steps forward in the global economy.”

 

The ICO continues to provide advice for organisations on compliance with the law. Our website has a wealth of guidance and practical toolkits, while we continue to offer advice via email and our helpline.