The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has claimed that its role as an independent regulator is growing increasingly important as data use becomes “more complicated.”
“Facebook, care.data, Google: it is clear that organisations’ use of data is getting ever more complicated,” claimed Information Commissioner Christopher Graham at the launch of the ICO annual report yesterday.
“People need to know some is watching over their information. That needs to be someone who is independent of government and business so the public know the regulator can be trusted,” he added.
However, Graham also warned that independence requires backing from strong powers and sustainable funding.
ICO’s 2014 report claims that it responded to a record number of data protection and freedom of information (FOI) complaints this year.
The organisation received a total of 259,903 calls to its helpline and claims to have resolved 15,492 data protection complaints – a rise of over 10% on the previous financial year.
Besides this, ICO has decided on 5296 FOI complaints, a 12% rise on year before.
It also got 161,720 communications from people who had concerns about spam texts and nuisance calls.
Despite these statistics, the ICO’s funding for handling FOI has been reduced for the past five years and EU data protection reforms are set to remove the notification fee that funds its work under the Data Protection Act (DPA).
“Independence means someone who’s got the resources to take on this ever-growing number of cases,” claimed Graham.
“It also means having the powers to act on the more serious complaints. A strong regulator is needed if a data breach affects millions of people.
“That someone is the Information Commissioner. We’re effective, efficient and busier than ever. But to do our job properly, to represent people properly, we need stronger powers, more sustainable funding and a clearer guarantee of independence,” he added.
Although ICO has been attempting to paint itself as a reputable upholder of data protection laws, it has emerged today that the organisations itself has recently suffered a data breach.
The error was initially picked up on by UK newspaper The Times, which claims the Information Commissioner has been reluctant to speak out about the matter.
The ICO has however claimed the security error was investigated and treated no differently from other cases and the matter is now closed as no damage has been done and preventative measures are in place.