New Zealand privacy commissioner tipped to become next ICO head

John Edwards is said to be an 'anti-Facebook' regulator who would fit well in the UK's plans to clamp down on big tech

John Edwards, New Zealand's current privacy commissioner, has been tipped to take over from Elizabeth Denham as the UK's Information Commissioner. 

The Times reports that his appointment is pending approval from prime minister Boris Johnson. 

The report states that an independent panel has already selected Edwards as the preferred candidate and that his appointment has received further support from digital secretary Oliver Dowden.

Edwards has been New Zealand's privacy commissioner since February 2014 and is currently serving his second five-year term. Before taking on the role, he practiced law in Wellington, with over 20-years of experience specialising in information law. He has also served in the New Zealand government's Ministry of Health, state services commission, and has worked directly with the prime minister and the cabinet. 

A number of reports have depicted Edwards as 'anti-Facebook', with The Times referring to him as "Facebook-hating", partly based on previous statements he has made about the social network. In 2019, in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque massacres, Edwards publicly scalded Facebook for its lack of comment on the matter - which went viral on the site. "Your silence is an insult to our grief", he was quoted as saying. 

Just a month later, Edwards took to Twitter to accuse Facebook of being "morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide (Myanmar), facilitate foreign undermining of democratic institutions #DontGiveaZuck". Edwards did go on to delete the tweet, but only because it had attracted "toxic" comments. 

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IT Pro has approached the Department of Culture, Media and Sport regarding the reports. Edwards himself declined to comment to the New Zealand Herald

Denham is set to leave the role in the autumn, having extended her term while the search for a successor continues. It is thought that Edwards, along with his stance on firms like Facebook, sit well with the government's own plans to regulate big tech. 

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