The ICO found that AIQ had violated Article 5 and 6 of the GDPR, by processing personal data unbeknown to the data subjects, for undeclared purposes and without a lawful basis for such processing. It had also failed to provide the transparency information, as required under Article 14 of the GDPR.
On 9thMay 2019, the Second Enforcement Notice was served on Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) ordering it to delete personal data it collected unlawfully as part of a Voice ID system. The background to the notice is thatHMRC adopted a voice authentication, in January 2017, which asked callers to some of its helplines to record their voice as their password. A complaint from Big Brother Watch to the ICO revealed that callers were not given further information or advised that they did not have to sign up to the service. There was no clear option for callers who did not wish to register. In short, HMRC did not have adequate consent from its customers to collect the data.
In the notice, the Information Commissioner says that HMRC appears to have given “little or no consideration to the data protection principles when rolling out the Voice ID service.” She highlights the scale of the data collection – seven million voice records – and that HMRC collected it in circumstances where there was a significant imbalance of power between the organisation and its customers. It did not explain to customers how they could decline to participate in the Voice ID system. It also did not explain that customers would not suffer a detrimental impact if they declined to participate.
It was also found that a data protection impact assessment (DPIA), that appropriately considered the compliance risks associated with processing biometric data, was not in place before the system was launched. The ICO plan to follow up the enforcement notice with an audit that will assess HMRC’s compliance with good practice in the processing of personal data.
Recording voices which can be used to identify the speaker is biometric data. This is classed as Special Category Data under GDPR.
If Data Controllers are planning to rely on consent as a legal basis to process such data, then they must remember that any consent obtained must be explicit (see the ICO guidance on informed consent).
Large scale use of biometric data is also “high risk” processing and will require a DPIA.
Data Controllers must be able to demonstrate their GDPR compliance by putting appropriate technical and organisational measures in place.
Steve Wood says:
“With the adoption of new systems comes the responsibility to make sure that data protection obligations are fulfilled and customers’ privacy rights addressed alongside any organisational benefit. The public must be able to trust that their privacy is at the forefront of the decisions made about their personal data.”
As more individuals become aware of the way in which organisations such as Facebook, and Google have used their personal data unlawfully, then the prospect of litigation, and class actions, seems increasingly likely. However, the recent case of Lloyd v Google  EWHC 2599 (QB) demonstrates that it doesn’t necessarily follow that a clear breach of data protection legislation will result in a successful claim for damages. The case shows that even if claimants can prove that there has been a breach of data protection legislation (now the GDPR and DPA 2018) they need to identify what harm the breach has caused and how the damage has been caused by the breach. This will inevitably be a fact specific exerciser.
The background-the Safari Workaround and DoubleClick Ad Cookie
The case concerned the use, by Google, of a cookie known as the “DoubleClick Ad cookie” between 2011 -2012. Google allegedly used the cookie to secretly track the internet activity of iPhone users in the US and the UK. Ordinarily the Safari browser (developed by Apple) had a default setting that blocked the use of third-party cookies, such as the DoubleClick Ad cookie. However, Google was able to exploit certain exceptions to this default blockage and implement the so called “Safari Workaround” which enabled Google to set the cookie on an iPhone, when the user used the Safari browser. This gave Google access to a huge amount of browser generated personal information, including the address or URL of the website which the browser is displaying to the user. It was claimed that this information enabled Google to obtain or deduce other sensitive information about individuals, such as their interests and habits, race ethnicity, class, political or religious view, health, age, sexuality and financial position. Google was also alleged to have aggregated this information to create lists of different types of people, such as “football lovers’, and offered these lists to subscribing advertisers.
Regulatory action was against Google in the USA with Google agreeing to pay US$25.5 million civil penalty to settle charges brought by the US Federal Trade Commission, and a further US$17 million to settle state consumer-based actions. No such regulatory action as taken by the Information Commissioner even though the breach clearly affected UK iPhone users.
The representative claim
The action against google was brought by Mr Lloyd who was the only named claimant. However, he brought this action as a representative of a much larger class of people. This is a novel type of litigation that allows a representative to sue in a representative capacity on behalf of a class of people who have “the same interest” in the claim. It was not entirely clear how big the class was, but estimates ranged between 5.4-4.4 million people. Google not surprising was keen that permission was denied, bearing in mind it estimated its potential liability (if the case was successful) of between £1-3 billion.
Mr Lloyd argued that he and each member of the group/class he represented had a right to be compensated “for the infringement of their data protection rights”. Specifically, it was alleged that Google had carried out the secret tracking and collation of personal data without the data subject’s consent or knowledge; that this was a breach of Google’s duty under s 4(4) of the DPA 1998 and that the data subjects were entitled to compensation under s 13 DPA 1998.
In other words, the fact of the contravention gave them a right to be compensated. Neither Mr Lloyd or any member of the group alleged or gave evidence about any financial loss, distress or anxiety. There were no individual allegations of harm. In fact, Mr Lloyd asserted that the claim was generic and claimed an equal, standard “tariff” award for each member of the class (the claim was for £750 per person). This turned out to be fatal to the claim.
Litigation against a US based company
Any litigant, or group of litigants, considering an action against Apple or Google or any other such company that is based outside the UK first need the permission of the High Court in order to serve a claim against a defendant outside of the jurisdiction of the domestic courts. Before the court will grant permission, the claimant must prove three things. First that the case falls within one of the listed “jurisdictional gateways”; second, that the case has a reasonable prospect of success and finally that England is the appropriate place to deal with the case. The High Court had no difficulty deciding that England would be the natural jurisdiction for the case since the claimants were all in the UK and the alleged damage had been incurred in the UK. However, the High Court Judge found that Mr Lloyd’s case failed on the remaining two issues and denied permission for the case to proceed.
The Court identified that the relevant gateway in this case was that the claimant had to prove they had a good arguable claim in tort and the damage was sustained in England & Wales. The Judge was clear that a claim for damages under the DPA 1998 is a claim in tort. He was also satisfied that each member of the class was (for at least some of the relevant period) within the jurisdiction when they connected to the internet using the Safari browser.
However, the real and substantial issue in this case was whether the Safari Workaround had caused “damage” within the meaning of the DPA 1998. The Court engaged in a lengthy analysis of the case law on DPA damages and concluded that the claimants had not sustained damages in this case. On this basis the court decided that Mr Lloyd did not have a good arguable case or a reasonable prospect of success.
Damages under the DPA 1998
Section 13 of the DPA 1998 provided that an individual who suffers damage by reason of any contravention by a data controller of any of the requirements of the DPA 1998 is entitled to compensation from the data controller for that damage.
The High Court decided that giving the words their natural meaning, this statutory right to compensation arises where
(a) there has been a breach of the DPA; and
(b) as a result, the claimant suffers damage.
These are two separate events connected by a causal link. In short, the breach must cause the damage. Based on this logic, it necessarily follows that some breaches will not give rise to damages. The High Court judge suggested some examples where a data controller processes personal data in breach of the DPA, but where the breach may not warrant an award of compensation, such as:
recording inaccurate data, but not using or disclosing it
Holding, but not disclosing, using or consulting personal data that are irrelevant
Holding data for too long
Failing, without consequences, to take adequate security measures.
Of course, this is not to say that these types of breaches could never give rise to a successful claim for damages, as much will depend on the context and facts of the case. However, the Court did suggest that data subjects had alternative remedies such as rectification, erasure and objection.
One of the key arguments presented by Lloyd was that the claimants had incurred damage because they lost control of their data. According to the Court, there will be circumstances where the loss of control may have significantly harmful consequences, such as in Vidal Hall. (Google in v Vidal-Hall and others & The Information Commissioner  EWCA Civ 311) The focus in that case was on the significant distress caused to the claimants by the delivery to their screens of unwanted advertising material. However, decision was very fact specific; it seemed that the type of information that had secretly been tracked and used to send targeting advertising was of a particularly private and sensitive nature, such that it would have caused harm to the claimants had any one else seen their computer screens.
The High Court in Lloyd v Google also accepted that delivery of unwanted commercial advertising can be upsetting in other ways, for example where repeated or bulk unwanted communications:
Is so distressing it constitutes harassment even if the content is inherently innocuous
Infringes a person’s right to respect for their autonomy
Represents a material interference with their freedom of choice over how they lead their life.
However, on the facts of the case the Court concluded that the claimants had not provided any particulars of any damage suffered. Rather the claimants seemed to be relying on the fact that the claimants were entitled to be compensated because of the breach alone. The judge rejected this as a possibility.
A Court cannot award compensation just because the data protection rules have been breached. The Court also rejected the idea that the claimants should be compensated in order to “censure” the defendant’s behaviour. The Court also rejected any argument that damages under the DPA should be awarded in order on a sort of “restitutionary” basis, that is ‘calculated by reference to the market value of the data which has been refused’.
Representative action cases- what lessons can be learnt?
This was a novel litigation, it involved one named claimant bringing an action on behalf of a large group. The cation faced difficulties right from the start, not least in trying to identify the group. The Judge identified three real difficulties with this type of action:
The representative (Lloyd) and the members of the class do not all have the “same interest” which is an essential requirement for any representative action. Some people may have suffered no damage and others different types of damage. Consequently, they did not all have the same interest in the action.
Even if it was possible to define the class of people represented, it would be practically impossible to identify all members of the class.
The court would not exercise its discretion to allow this case to go forward, particularly given the costs of the litigation, the fact that the damages payable to each individual (were the case to succeed) would be modest, and that none of the class had shown any interest in, appeared to care about in the claim.
Anyone contemplating pursuing this type of claim in future would be well advised to carefully consider and take on board the judge’s criticisms and seek to address them before pursing an action.
Susan Wolf will be delivering the forthcoming GDPR workshop in Birmingham on the 19th November. Book your place now!
Considering when you will need to do a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA).
Article 35 of GDPR introduces this concept. DPIAs (also known as Privacy Impact Assessments) are a tool which can help Data Controllers identify the most effective way to comply with their GDPR obligations and reduce the risks of harm to individuals through the misuse of their personal information. A well-managed DPIA will allow Data Controllers to identify and fix problems at an early stage, reducing the associated costs and damage to reputation, which might otherwise occur.
DPIAs are important tools for accountability, as they help Data Controllers not only to comply with requirements of the GDPR, but also to demonstrate that appropriate measures have been taken to ensure compliance (see Article 24)4.)
When is a DPIA needed?
Carrying out a DPIA is not mandatory for every processing operation. A DPIA is only required when the processing is “likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons” (Article 35(1)).
Such processing, according to Article 35(3)), includes (but is not limited to):
systematic and extensive processing activities, including profiling and where decisions that have legal effects – or similarly significant effects – on individuals.
large scale processing of special categories of data or personal data relating to criminal convictions or offences.
large scale, systematic monitoring of public areas (CCTV).
So what other cases will involve “high risk” processing that may require a DPIA? In May, the Article 29 Working Party published its data protection impact assessment guidelines for comments. We are still waiting for the final version but I don’t think its is going to change much. It sets out the criteria for assessing whether processing is high risk. This includes processing involving:
Evaluation or scoring, including profiling and predicting especially from aspects concerning the Data Subject’s performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests, reliability or behaviour, location or movements
Automated decision-making with legal or similar significant effects
Systematic monitoring of individuals
Personal Data on a large scale
Datasets that have been matched or combined
Data concerning vulnerable Data Subjects
Innovative use or application of technological or organisational solutions
Data transfers across borders outside the European Union
Data that Prevents Data Subjects from exercising a right or using a service or a contract
What information should the DPIA contain?
The GDPR sets out the minimum features of a DPIA (Article 35(7), and Recitals 84 and 90):
A description of the processing operations and the purposes, including, where applicable, the legitimate interests pursued by the Data Controller.
An assessment of the necessity and proportionality of the processing in relation to the purpose.
An assessment of the risks to individuals.
The measures in place to address risk, including security, and to demonstrate that the Data Controller is complying with GDPR.
DPIA’s should be conducted prior to the processing operation commencing. DPIAs are an integral part of taking a Privacy by Design approach which is emphasised in Article 25. The DPIA should be treated as a continual process, not a one-time exercise. Data Controllers should start it early and update it throughout the lifecycle of the project.
The GDPR comes into force on 25th May 2018, and DPIAs are legally mandatory only for processing operations that are initiated after this date. Nevertheless, the Article 29 Working Party strongly recommends carrying out DPIAs for all high-risk operations prior to this date.
Who should conduct the DPIA?
A DPIA may be conducted by the Data Controller’s own staff or an external consultant. Of course the Data Controller remains liable for ensuring it is done correctly. The Data Protection Officer’s advice, if one has been designated, must also be sought as well as the views (if appropriate) of Data Subjects or their representatives.
If the DPIA suggests that any identified risks cannot be managed and the residual risk remains high, the Data Controller must consult with the Information Commissioner before moving forward with the project. Regardless of whether or not consultation with the ICO is required, the Data Controller’s obligations of retaining a record of the DPIA and updating the DPIA in due course remain.
Even if ICO consultation is not required, the DPIA may be reviewed by the ICO at a later date in the event of an audit or investigation arising from the Data Controller’s use of personal data.
What are the risks of non-compliance?
Failure to carry out a DPIA when the processing is subject to a DPIA (Article 35(1) and (3)), carrying out a DPIA in an incorrect way (Article 35(2) and (7) to (9)), or failing to consult the ICO where required (Article 36(3)(e)), can each result in an administrative fine of up to 10 million Euros, or in the case of an undertaking, up to 2% of the total worldwide annual turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is higher.
More about Data Protection Impact Assesments in our forthcoming webinar.
The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force on 25th May 2018. Whilst it will replaces the UK’s Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), it still includes the right of the Data Subject to receive a copy of his/her data, to rectify any inaccuracies and to object to direct marketing. It also introduces new rights, one of which is the right to Data Portability.
Article 20 of GDPR allows for Data Subjects to receive their personal data, which they have provided to a Data Controller, in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format, and to transmit it to another Data Controller. The aim of this right is to support user choice, user control and consumer empowerment. It will have a big impact on all Data Controllers but particularly data driven organisations such as banks, cloud storage providers, insurance companies and social networking websites. These organisations may find that customers are encouraged to move suppliers, as they will be armed with much more information than they previously had accessed to. This in turn may lead to an increase in competition driving down prices and improving services (so the theory goes; we live in hope!).
When the Right Can Be Exercised
Unlike the subject access right, the Data Portability right does not apply to all personal data held by the Data Controller concerning the Data Subject. Firstly it has to be automated data. Paper files are not included. Secondly the personal data has to be knowingly and actively provided by the Data Subject. For example account data (e.g. mailing address, user name, age) submitted via online forms, but also when they are generated by and collected from the activities of users, by virtue of the use of a service or device.
By contrast personal data that are derived or inferred from the data provided by the Data Subject, such as a user profile created by analysis of raw smart metering data or a website search history, are excluded from the scope of the right to Data Portability, since they are not provided by the Data Subject, but created by the Data Controller.
Thirdly the personal data has to be processed by the Data Controller with the Data Subject’s consent or pursuant to a contract with him/her. Therefore personal data processed by local authorities as part of their public functions (e.g. council tax and housing benefit data) will be excluded from the right to Data Portability.
It is important to not that this right does not require Data Controllers to keep personal data for longer than specified in their retention schedules or privacy polices. Nor is there a requirement to start storing data just to comply with a Data Portability request if received.
Main elements of Data Portability
Article 20(1) gives a Data Subject two rights:
To receive personal data processed by a Data Controller, and to store it for further personal use on a private device, without transmitting it to another Data Controller.
This is similar to the subject access right. However here the data has to be received “in a structured, commonly used, machine readable format” thus making it easier to analyse and share. It could be used to receive a playlist from a music streaming service, information about online purchases or leisure pass data from a swimming pool.
A right to transmit personal data from one Data Controller to another Data Controller “without hindrance”
This provides the ability for Data Subjects not just to obtain and reuse their data, but also to transmit it to another service provider e.g. social networking sites and cloud storage providers etc. It facilitates the ability of data subjects to move, copy or transmit personal data easily. In addition it provides consumer empowerment by preventing “lock-in”.
The right to Data Portability is expected to foster opportunities for innovation and sharing of personal data between Data Controllers in a safe and secure manner, under the control of the data subject.
Data Controllers must respond to requests for Data Portability without undue delay, and within one month. This can be extended by two months where the request is complex or a number of requests are received. Data Controllers must inform the individual within one month of receipt of the request and explain why the extension is necessary.
Information is to be provided free of charge save for some exceptions. Refusals must be explained as well as the right to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Data Controllers must inform Data Subjects of the right to Data Portability within their Privacy Notice as required by Article 13 and 14 of GDPR. (More on Privacy Notices under GDPR here. See also the ICO’s revised Privacy Notices Code.)
In December 2016, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party published guidance on Data Portability and a useful FAQ. (Technically these documents are still in draft as comments have been invited until the end of January 2017). It recommends that Data Controllers clearly explain the difference between the types of data that a Data Subject can receive using the portability right or the access right, as well as to provide specific information about the right to Data Portability before any account closure, to enable the Data Subject to retrieve and store his/her personal data.
Subject to technical capabilities, Data controllers should also offer different implementations of the right to Data Portability including a direct download opportunity and allowing Data Subjects to directly transmit the data to another Data Controller.
Impact on the Public Sector
Local authorities and the wider public sector might be forgiven for thinking that the Data Portability right only applies to private sector organisations which processes a lot of personal data based on consent or a contract e.g. banks, marketing companies, leisure service providers, utilities etc. Major data processing operations in local authorities (e.g. for the purposes of housing benefit, council tax etc.) are based on carrying out public functions or statutory duties and so excluded. However a lot of other data operations will still be covered by this right e.g. data held by personnel, accounts and payroll, leisure services and even social services. An important condition is that the Data Subject must have provided the data.
The Government has confirmed that GDPR is here to stay; well beyond the date when the UK finally leaves the European Union. All Data Controllers need to assess now what impact the right to Data Portability will have on their operations. Policies and Procedures need to be put into place now.
“We will be members of the EU in 2018 and therefore it would be expected and quite normal for us to opt into the GDPR and then look later at how best we might be able to help British business with data protection while maintaining high levels of protection for members of the public.”
Writing on her blog the Information Commissioner (Elizabeth Denham) welcomed this announcement. However it is technically incorrect for her to say:
“The government has now confirmed that the UK will be implementing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).”
As I have explained in a previous blog post, the Government has no choice but to implement GDPR as the UK will still be a member of the EU on 25th May 2018 when it comes into force.
This announcement does though put an end to months of uncertainty as Data Controllers waited to see what the Government would do after the UK leaves the EU. Although last month’s announcement of the Great Repeal Bill meant that yesterday’s announcement was not a big surprise.
GDPR will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and represents the biggest change to data protection law for 20 years. With some GDPR breaches carrying fines of up to 4% of global annual turnover or 20 million Euros, now is the time to start planning (if you have not already started!).
The ICO’s overview of GDPR is a good place to start. It has also published 12 steps to take towards compliance. We would emphasise:
Raising awareness of GDPR at all levels within the organisation (See our GDPR poster).
Considering who is going to fulfill the mandatory role of Data Protection Officer. What skills do they have and what training will they need? Our Data Protection Practitioner Certificate, with an emphasis on the practical skills requited to implement GDPR, is an ideal qualification for those aspiring for such positions.
Reviewing information security polices and procedures in the light of the GDPR’s security obligations particularly breach notification.
Look out also for amendments to Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Section 38 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, Regulation 13 of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Regulation 11 of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004. All contain exemptions from disclosure of personal data by reference to the DPA.
The ICO will be publishing a revised timeline setting out what areas of guidance it will be prioritising over the next six months. Elisabeth Denham ends her blog with these wise words:
“I acknowledge that there may still be questions about how the GDPR would work on the UK leaving the EU but this should not distract from the important task of compliance with GDPR by 2018.”
Act Now has a series of blog posts as well as a dedicated GDPR section on its website with detailed guidance on different aspects of the Regulation.
This throws up some interesting issues. A qualified, experienced data protection officer is a valuable commodity. They do exist but command salaries approaching £50,000 in large organisations (stop laughing at the back) and if you’re a small organisation they’re not going to work for you for peanuts. So where do you find a qualified, experienced DPO?
Secondly will there be a requirement upon you to have one? It looks like there will be three clear cases.
processing is carried out by a public authority,
the core activities of the controller or processor consist of processing which, by its nature, scope or purposes, requires regular and systematic monitoring
of data subjects on a large scale
the core activities consist of processing on a large scale of special categories of data.
But to go back to the DPO what does qualified mean? Yes there are qualifications out there. The accepted gold standard in the UK is the BCS certificate which has 40 hours of training plus a testing 3 hour exam. There are other firms in the sector who offer their own versions and most of them involve significant study (30 or 40 hours) plus exam. Other qualifications exist, like our GDPR Practitioner Certificateand CIPP certification from the International Association of Privacy Professionals – some for US and some for UK professionals – but the question everyone wants answering is which qualifications will satisfy the GDPR?
Do training providers have to apply for acceptance or endorsement from the EU or their national regulator? Will the content of these courses be examined or will a standard be set and the training providers tailor their material to a certain level or will it be a free for all with no standard to work to? Do you want a DPO who knows how to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment or who knows about International Data Transfers or one with an understanding of the history of Data Protection? Or will there be a requirement to study a certain (large) number of hours to demonstrate competence? At the moment it looks like all the DPO will need is “sufficient expert knowledge” which doesn’t in itself mean a qualification.
Other skills required by a good DPO are those of Diplomat, Trainer; Advisor, Confidante; Interpreter; Persuader; Listener; Friend to requestors; Policy & procedures writer. They have the ability to talk to the top level of the organisation yet explain complex law in Plain English. Not your run of the mill person.
It looks like the route map will require the DPO to be an employee but one with a different type of outlook. Privacy is becoming a big vote winner; organisations who don’t respect customers privacy will feel the backlash of disgruntled consumers. It really needs someone who is part of the organisation who is present at all times and understand the data processing systems of their employer but is detached enough to be able to criticize his own organisation.
There is a way out for small organisations who think they need a DPO to ensure their organisation is fully compliant with the new regulation. Don’t give the job to an existing member of staff and expect them to learn it on the job; Don’t appoint a knowledgeable, qualified, experienced but expensive DPO – bring in an external one you can use as and when you need them.
Externals have significant benefits. They don’t work full time so the on costs disappear; You can bring them in as required for short term task and finish assignments; You can save the costs of training and continuing education for an internal data protection officer; your staff will react better to an external who appears to have the status of a “consultant”.
Externals also won’t have any political or organisational baggage and can act in an unbiased manner without fear for their job. An external data protection officer also has no worries about favouring certain departments or individuals in the company. Many organisations appoint their Head of Legal as their DPO which brings with it the ethical/legal/best course of action conflict. An external won’t need to bother with this.
You can concentrate on your core business and the external can take care of your data protection.
Once you have appointed an external DPO they will compile a detailed data protection audit on your data protection compliance. They will then identify possible data protection issues and legal risks and explain what is required to remedy them. Then you can start making the necessary changes. Your business will soon be in full compliance with current data protection laws.
But it doesn’t stop there. The external DPO will be on call and can discuss day-to-day DP issues by phone or email for a small fee. If more detailed work is required further fees and timescales can be agreed.
Working with an external data protection officer is based on a consulting agreement. There may be a retainer fee plus an hourly or daily rate to follow. If your Data Protection needs are low you may not have to consult your EDPO too often.
Not surprisingly EDPOs are starting to appear on the web. They’re quite common in Germany and it’s likely they will become a staple in the UK. Various UK law firms advertise such a service but unsurprisingly the rates they charge are not on view. It might end up costing more than you think especially if you opt for a ’big’ name.
There’s also the scope however for sharing a DPO. This has already happened in various parts of the country as cash strapped rural councils pay for a percentage of a DPO and have them on site part of a week.
At a recent educational conference a group of 30 schools in the same region kicked around the idea of each contributing to buy a DPO for all of them who would fulfill their information law obligations. Sounds quite a good idea until you realise there’s only about 240 working days in a year so each school would have 8 of those days to themselves and the shared DPO would have a significant petrol expenses tab. A few rural councils with a shared DPO would have a much better deal.
Sadly GDPR is not well understood and there are those who think Brexit will derail it (though not true) but a wise organisation should be thinking now if and when they will need a DPO, what qualification they will have and how do they find one.
An external who is called on infrequently might appear be the cheapest option but might have further hidden costs and a part share of a DPO might be a good short term solution but would they be as good as the expert knowledge and day to day hands on work of a full timer.
Good news for Data Protection Officers…
We are running a series of GDPR webinars and workshops and our team of experts are available to come to your organisation to deliver customised data protection/GDPR workshops as well as to carry out health checks and audits. Our GDPR Practitioner Certificate (GDPR.Cert), with an emphasis on the practical skills required to implement GDPR, is an ideal qualification for those aspiring for such positions.
So now we have Conservative majority government, contrary to the pollsters’ predicted. I know what you are thinking; what now for Freedom of Information?
Unlike Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives did not mention FOI in their election manifesto choosing to talk about transparency instead:
“Transparency has also been at the heart of our approach to government. Over the last five years, we have been open about government spending, provided access to taxpayer-funded research, pursued open data and helped establish the Open Government Partnership. We will continue to be the most transparent government in the world.”
The Conservatives have always been keener on pro active publication of information than FOI. In July 2012, in a speech at the Policy Exchange, Francis Maude said:
“I’d like to make Freedom of Information redundant, by pushing out so much [open] data that people won’t have to ask for it.”
We could see more requirements on local authorities to publish information. Last October, an updated version of the Local Government Transparency Code was published. This requires councils (as well as, amongst others, National Park Authorities, Fire and Waste Authorities and Integrated Transport Authorities) to proactively publish certain categories information (in Part 2 of the code) whilst also recommending that they go beyond the minimum (in part 3 of the code). It could be that Part 2 of the code (the mandatory publication requirements) is extended to include more categories of information. There is also a Transparency Code for Smaller Authorities published in December last year, which could similarly be extended.
Could the Tories make an assault on FOI now that there is no coalition partner to hold them back? David Cameron has, in the past, expressed his irritation with FOI. In March 2012, giving evidence to a Select Committee, he said that FOI was “furring up the arteries” of government. More recently, speaking to the Times newspaper, he said:
“I wish we’d spent more time in opposition thinking about how to declutter government. What I call the buggeration factor, of consulting and consultations and health and safety and judicial review and FOI [the Freedom of Information Act] … Just generally, if you want to do something, build a road, start a new college, launch a programme to encourage people to build more houses – it takes a bloody long time.”
Until yesterday there were no post election clues about the fate of FOI. And then came the appointment of Michael Gove as Justice Secretary; the head of the government department that is responsible for, among other things, Freedom of Information. To say that Gove is no fan of FOI is like saying George Galloway does not like losing elections. This is the same Michael Gove who, a few years ago, was at the wrong end of an Information Commissioner Decision Notice. This related to his time as Education Secretary when he and his officials had routinely used personal email accounts to discuss official, often controversial, Department business. Apparently this was done in the belief that such emails would not be disclosable pursuant to an FOI request.
“We would suggest something in the region of two hours, taking the limit to 16 hours rather than 18, but anticipate the Government would want to carry out further work on how this would affect the number of requests rejected.”
The Government, in its response, said that it doubts that much will be achieved through the reduction of the costs limit. It was though in favour of allowing additional factors to be taken into account in deciding whether the 18 hour limit has been reached:
“The Government does not share the assessment of the Committee that it is unfeasible to develop an objective and fair methodology for calculating the cost limit which includes further time spent dealing with information in response to a request. As such, the Government is minded to explore options for providing that time taken to consider and redact information can be included in reaching the cost limit.”
So whilst the Committee rejected the suggestion that reading, consideration and redaction time should also be taken into account when deciding whether the 18 hour limit has been reached, it could be that the Fees Regulations are amended to allow this.
At present the costs of different FOI requests can be aggregated only where the requests relate to the same or similar information. The Government may change this to make it even easier to aggregate costs. At paragraph 19 of its response, it stated:
“We will also look at addressing where one person or group of people’s use of FOIA to make unrelated requests to the same public authority is so frequent that it becomes inappropriately or disproportionately burdensome.”
Fees could also be introduced for FOI tribunal appeals. The Committee never considered the issue but the Government (at paragraph 24 of its response) indicated that it was considering the idea:
“…the Government is keen explore the potential for users to contribute more towards the costs of tribunals. Fees are already charged in some jurisdictions (for example, in the Immigration and Asylum tribunal) and we will examine the scope for extending this approach to other types of tribunal, including the Information tribunal.”
One thing is for certain. The Police Federation will be made subject to FOI. In a speech in May 2014 the Home Secretary, Theresa May, said that the Police Federation needs to be more accountable to the public. In March this year she announced that there was no time to amend FOI to add it to the list of public authorities but she also published a draft clause “that demonstrates how that change could be made in legislation, with the intention this would be fulfilled in the next Parliament.”