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ICO strengthens commitment to technology and innovation with executive director appointment

by Brian Sims
Simon McDougall

Simon McDougall

The Information Commissioner’s commitment to encouraging new ideas and emerging technologies while protecting people’s privacy has been strengthened with a high-profile appointment. Simon McDougall is joining the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) as executive director for technology policy and innovation with a remit to lead new approaches towards information rights practice and promote the legally compliant processing of personal data as a core element of new technologies and business systems.

McDougall is currently managing director of Promontory, a risk management and regulatory compliance consulting firm acquired in 2016 by IBM, where he founded and led a global privacy practice. He has extensive experience of working across a wide range of sectors and jurisdictions on privacy, compliance, digital initiatives and innovation.

He’s a well-known international figure in the world of information rights, serving on the Board of Directors and the European Advisory Board at the International Association of Privacy Professionals along with many other consultative and advisory groups.

Of his appointment, McDougall said: “I’m honoured to have the opportunity to join the ICO and lead its work in this critical area. Technological change continues to accelerate, and it’s vital that the ICO remains constructively and robustly engaged as organisations innovate in the use of personal data.”

Technology is a key area for the ICO, as demonstrated by the following:

*The publication of the organisation’s first Technology Strategy, outlining how the ICO will adapt to technological change as it impacts information rights and how the organisation will plan ahead for the arrival of new technologies. It explains the ICO’s eight technology goals and how it intends to achieve them

*Making Artificial Intelligence (AI) one of the ICO’s Top Three priorities for 2018-2019. This includes a new Technology Fellowship programme with a two-year post-doctoral appointment to investigate and research the impact of AI on data privacy. The ICO’s updated, award-winning paper on AI, Big Data and Machine Learning has been key in highlighting many of the issues and challenges facing society today

*Plans for a regulatory ‘sandbox’ to enable organisations to develop innovative products and services while benefiting from advice and support from the ICO. The ICO intends to consult on implementation this year

*Adding cyber incidents as a sixth strategic goal in the ICO’s Information Rights Strategic Plan

Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner, said: “We have ambitious plans for our work in the crucial area of technology and also to ensure we are an innovative regulator, open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. As a globally respected figure in the world of privacy and innovation, Simon is a great fit for this new role, which will strengthen our expertise and responsiveness to new challenges and opportunities.”

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