This page highlights coverage of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) work in the media, as well as providing rebuttals and clarifications of articles and commentary where necessary.
- Online advertising technology – 3 February 2022
The Guardian’s TechScape newsletter gives an overview of recent discussions around cookies and online advertising, including Google’s plans to replace third party cookies with alternative technologies.
ICO has been highly active in this space.
In a Commissioner’s Opinion published last year, the ICO set out clear data protection standards that companies must meet when developing online advertising technologies in order to safeguard people’s privacy. They have also intervened in other areas of the adtech industry.
The ICO is currently working with the Competition and Markets Authority to review Google’s plans from a competition and privacy perspective. You can read more about this work here.
- John Edwards talks to the Financial Times and Today programme – 28 January 2022
In his first media interviews since being appointed Information Commissioner, John Edwards talked about the opportunity the UK has to learn from the experiences of GDPR, and the global influence of the UK through initiatives like the Kids Code.
He also spoke about the importance of ensuring all of society can enjoy the benefits that big tech companies bring, by working with other regulators to minimise harms, and his commitment to creating certainty for business by making data protection easy.
He told the FT: “Coming out of the EU does present considerable opportunities. The one-stop shop…is one area that GDPR has not worked as its designers would have hoped. We, as a single regulator, can be more fleet of foot, and in a fast-moving digital environment, that too is critical for innovation”
The piece goes on to cover John wanting a “sharp supervisory focus” on tech companies, and playing a “leadership role in the digital economy”, with the Kids Code a good example of how that can be achieved.
On data protection reforms, John adds: “There’s positives in the proposed reforms. I think we can provide greater certainty and flexibility [to businesses] without putting at risk fundamental rights that people have in the UK.”
The full article is available on the Financial Times website.
You can listen to the Today interview on BBC Sounds, at 6:52am.
- #NoPlaceToHide – Home Office backed campaign on end to end encryption (E2EE) involving tech companies – 21 January 2022
The Guardian and BBC cover the ICO’s response to a campaign calling for the roll-out of E2EE to be delayed until tech organisations can ensure the safety of their users. We’ve highlighted that the debate around E2EE should be balanced and consider benefits of the technology alongside any other issues.
Stephen Bonner, ICO’s Executive Director for Innovation and Technology said: “The discussion on end-to-end encryption use is too unbalanced to make a wise and informed choice. There is too much focus on the costs without also weighing up the significant benefits.
“E2EE serves an important role both in safeguarding our privacy and online safety. It strengthens children’s online safety by not allowing criminals and abusers to send them harmful content or access their pictures or location.
“It is also crucial for businesses, enabling them to share information securely and fosters consumer confidence in digital services.
“E2EE is seen by some to hinder the clamp down on child abusers because it leaves law enforcers blind to harmful content. But having access to encrypted content is not the only way to catch abusers. Law enforcers have other methods such as listening to reports of those targeted, infiltrating the groups planning these offences, using evidence from convicted abusers and their systems to identify other offenders.
“We are also seeing a range of other techniques and innovations available that can be used without accessing content to help stop abuse or catch those trying to harm. As an example, platforms are listening to teenagers’ reports and limiting search results for anyone attempting unwanted contact.
“Government should continue to put the effort into maximising law enforcement and innovative techniques, such as the Safety Tech Challenge. Until we look properly at the consequences, it is hard to see any case for reconsidering the use of E2EE – delaying its use leaves everyone at risk, including children.
“We look forward to being a key participant in this crucial discussion.”
- Which?’s research on Tinder – 21 January 2022
There has been widespread coverage in the media about Which?’s research on Tinder’s pricing structure.
An ICO spokesperson said: “Organisations must use personal data lawfully, fairly and transparently. That means organisations must only use people’s data in ways they would reasonably expect, and be clear with people about why they need their personal data and what they will do with it. … “Which? has made us aware of this matter and we will assess the information provided.”
- Using domestic CCTV – 17 January 2022
Ddirector Suzanne Gordon talked about domestic CCTV and video doorbells on BBC Morning Live. You can watch it on BBC iPlayer from 10 minutes into the 17 January programme broadcast.
ICO advice for the public is to keep it simple: limit what you film to your house boundaries, turn off the audio, and delete it when you don’t need it anymore.
- Downing Street lockdown parties – 14 January 2022
Stories about Downing Street lockdown parties continue to run in the news including The Guardian, Independent, Mail Online and Evening Standard.
The ICO highlighted the rules around not deleting emails or texts that may be relevant to answer a Freedom of Information request.
An ICO spokesperson said: “It is an important principle of government transparency and accountability that official records are kept of key actions and decisions. … “Relevant information that exists in the private correspondence channels of public authorities should be available and included in responses to information requests received. Erasing, destroying or concealing information within scope of a Freedom of Information request, with the intention of preventing its disclosure is a criminal offence under section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act.”
You can read more information here about official information held in non-corporate communications channels.
- Response to concerns around virtual reality headsets – 12 January 2022
You may have read stories in the media recently about Meta’s Oculus virtual reality headsets and concerns around the way children can use them. ICO Children’s code aims to protect children’s privacy online.
Here’s the full response:
An ICO spokesperson said: “Online services and products that use personal data and are likely to be accessed by children are required to comply with the standards of our Children’s code.
“We are planning further discussions with Meta on its children’s privacy and data protection by design approaches to Oculus products and virtual reality services.
“Parents and children who have concerns about how their data is being handled can complain to us at the ICO.”
For more information on our Children’s code visit ico.org.uk/childrenscode.
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