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.

A blog by Anulka Clarke, Acting Director of Regulatory Assurance

Respecting individuals’ rights, including their right to privacy, is a fundamental part of our democracy. Freedom of expression and information, including a free press, is also fundamental to our democracy because it serves to increase knowledge, inform debate and hold the powerful to account. It’s crucial to maintain the right balance between journalism and data protection law so that both are able to perform their vital role in society.

The ICO guidance for the media has existed since 2014 to provide practical help to strike the right balance between journalism and data protection.

We’re currently working to update our guidance and develop a new code of practice in line with the statutory requirement under section 124 of the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018). This will help anyone processing personal data for the purposes of journalism to understand their legal obligations and how to comply effectively, including newspapers and magazines, television and radio broadcasters, and ‘citizen journalists’.

The helpful feedback provided to our initial call for views back in April 2019 has already helped to shape the code. Responding to the pandemic, and the shift in our priorities, meant that we had to pause this work, but we’ve now created a new team to take this work forward.

We want the code to be as practical and helpful as possible and deal with key issues that are relevant to journalism today. This includes updates to reflect legislative changes and relevant case law. However, the best way for us to produce the most useful tool is to hear the views of journalists, media companies and anyone who is using or affected by the code.

The next big opportunity to put views across will be a public consultation over the summer when we’ll publish a draft code, explain how we’ve taken feedback into account, and ask for further feedback to help us consider impacts and the statutory review of processing for the purposes of journalism.

The Data Protection Act 2018 requires the ICO to: produce the Journalism code; create guidance for the public on how to complain about media organisations; and review how personal data is being processed for the purposes of journalism.

You can contact the Journalism code team by emailing [email protected].

Anulka Clarke is the Acting Director of Regulatory Assurance at the ICO.