Home News Information Commissioner’s Office publishes 2015-2016 Annual Report in wake of Brexit vote

Information Commissioner’s Office publishes 2015-2016 Annual Report in wake of Brexit vote

by Brian Sims
Christopher Graham

Christopher Graham

In Christopher Graham’s last Annual Report as Information Commissioner, he describes a year of ‘real achievement’ as he looks back over the last 12 months. The Commissioner, who steps down today after seven years in post, explained: “We have delivered on our objectives, responding to new challenges and preparing for big changes, particularly in terms of the data protection and privacy field.”

During the past year, changes in the rules on nuisance marketing have meant that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) was able to issue fines totalling more than £2 million. In addition, the organisation offered expert advice to many Parliamentary Committees (including the Burns Commission and its review of freedom of information law). It also began preparing for new data protection reforms.

In the 2015-2016 Annual Report, Graham has commented on the real progress made. “The ICO has had to respond effectively to the unexpected. Big data breaches such as that at Talk Talk… Acting on newspaper allegations about charity fundraising methods that allegedly breached data protection and privacy law… Taking part in the debate on surveillance and security and the Investigatory Powers Bill. In its responses following the Schrems Judgement, with all of the implications for transatlantic data flows, the ICO’s influential counsel has helped to avert a meltdown.”

Graham went on to state: “The credit for another year of high performance is shared by staff at every level of the organisation, and I should like to thank everyone at the ICO for what they’ve done to contribute towards this result.”

Implications of the EU Referendum result

Speaking at the launch of the Annual Report in London, Graham also looked towards the future. “Over the coming weeks, we will be discussing with Government the implications of the EU Referendum result and its impact on data protection reform in the UK. With so many businesses and services operating across borders, international consistency around data protection laws and rights is crucial both to businesses and organisations and to consumers and citizens alike. The ICO’s role has always involved working closely with regulators in other countries, and that will continue to be the case.”

Focusing specifically on the Brexit vote, an ICO spokesperson said: “The Data Protection Act remains the law of the land irrespective of the EU Referendum result. If the UK isn’t part of the EU, then upcoming EU reforms to data protection law would not directly apply to the UK, but if the UK wants to trade with the Single Market on equal terms we would have to prove ‘adequacy’. In other words, UK data protection standards would have to be equivalent to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation framework starting in 2018.”

The Information Commissioner asserted: “Having clear laws with safeguards in place is more important than ever given the growing digital economy, and we will be speaking to Government to present our view that reform of the UK law remains necessary.”

Reflecting on the financial year 2015-2016, the ICO’s Annual Report includes several key statistics:

*16,388: Data protection concerns received
*194,728: Helpline calls answered
*161,190: Number of concerns received about nuisance calls

*Read the detailed 92-page report in full here

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