14 July 2020

When the ICO set out how we would regulate during COVID-19 I wrote of the importance of regulators taking account of the larger social and economic context. 

That is always the case, but it has been especially important that my office adjust our regulatory approach to reflect these extraordinary times. The pandemic has brought real pressures for organisations and individuals, and it is right that we have responded pragmatically and empathetically.

The ICO has kept our regulatory approach under review over the past few months. This takes into consideration what we are hearing from organisations and the public, both around data protection and freedom of information.

The updated document we have published today maintains the same approach, with small additions, for instance to reflect our ability to now be able to carry out audits remotely.

The emphasis on the value of privacy protections remains. Privacy has been at the centre of considerations about several aspects of the responses throughout the UK to coronavirus, from contact tracing to easing of lockdown restrictions. It’s clear that such protections will continue to be important to people as these responses to COVID-19 continue to evolve towards recovery from the pandemic.

We know from talking to organisations that while each is different, the focus of many in the coming months is on rebuilding their businesses.

It is important that information rights are considered as part of those recovery plans, particularly considering how capacity can be brought back up to levels they were at before the pandemic, giving people full access to their data protection and freedom of information rights.

We will have more to say soon on FOI and our expectations as public authorities return to greater capacity.

The importance of privacy protections, and the value of transparency provided by freedom of information, are parts of modern life we must not lose. That is why we have been focused on supporting organisations through the pandemic. We will continue to offer guidance on responding to the challenges coronavirus brings, as well as providing broader practical support through our website and advice services.

Elizabeth Denham

Elizabeth Denham was appointed UK Information Commissioner on 15 July 2016, having previously held the position of Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia, Canada.