New ICO chief: UK can navigate post-Brexit data protection problems

Elizabeth Denham insists that Brexit will not stop UK protecting data

The new Information Commissioner believes the UK can navigate Brexit to successfully update its data protection laws.

Elizabeth Denham, who joined the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) from an equivalent position in British Columbia last month, gave a bright assessment of the future of Britain's data protection, despite the vote to leave the EU causing uncertainty.

In her first newsletter for the UK's data watchdog, Denham wrote: "The result of the EU referendum and its impact on data protection reforms will undoubtedly create uncertainty, as any period of flux does. It's clear to me though that the UK is well equipped to navigate the changes ahead successfully.

"Data protection is a team sport. Effective regulation requires engagement with the public sector, with industry, with civil society and with the public at large."

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Her comments come after the minister for data protection admitted Brexit has created doubt over whether the UK will need to formulate its own laws instead of adopting the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into force in May 2018.

Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe said: "Currently it seems unlikely we will know the answer to these questions before the withdrawal negotiations get under way."

It is widely accepted the UK will need to prove it provides an adequate level of data protection if EU data is transferred here.

Denham's tenure itself was in doubt when it emerged that the government had failed to get the Queen's consent for her appointment in time.

But now in the post, she indicated that she plans to engage with stakeholders about the future of data protection regulation, saying: "Data protection is a team sport. Effective regulation requires engagement with the public sector, with industry, with civil society and with the public at large.

"We all have an important role to play in this, and I look forward to the opportunity to work with you during my time here."

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