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ICO strengthens commitment to technology and innovation

Information Commissioner’s Office has demonstrated its commitment to technology and innovation by appointing a new executive director to focus on this area

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says its commitment to encouraging new ideas and emerging technologies while protecting privacy has been strengthened with a high-profile appointment for a newly created role.

Simon McDougall is joining the ICO as executive director for technology policy and innovation to lead new approaches to information rights practice and promoting the legally compliant processing of personal data as a core element of new technologies and business systems.

McDougall is currently managing director of Promontory, a risk management and regulatory compliance consulting firm acquired by IBM in 2016, where he founded and led a global privacy practice. He has extensive experience of working across a wide range of sectors and jurisdictions on privacy, compliance, digital initiatives and innovation, the ICO said.

McDougall also serves on the European advisory board of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).

“Technological change continues to accelerate, and it is vital that the ICO remains constructively and robustly engaged as organisations innovate in the use of personal data,” he said.

The ICO said technology is a key area for the organisation, demonstrated by the publication of the ICO’s first Technology strategy, outlining how the ICO will adapt to technological change as it impacts information rights and how it will plan ahead for the arrival of new technologies.

The document also details eight technology goals and how the ICO intends to achieve them.

The ICO has also identified artificial intelligence (AI) as one of its top three priorities. This includes a new technology fellowship programme with a two-year post-doctoral appointment to investigate and research the impact of AI on data privacy.

The ICO’s paper on AI, big data and machine learning has been key in highlighting many of the issues and challenges facing society, the organisation said.

Plans for a regulatory “sandbox” to enable organisations to develop innovative products and services while benefiting from advice and support from the ICO is also part of the organisation’s focus on technology, as is the move to add cyber incidents as a sixth strategic goal in the ICO’s Information Rights Strategic Plan.

Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said the ICO has ambitious plans for its work in the “crucial” area of technology and to ensure the ICO is “innovative” regulator, open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

“As a globally respected figure in the world of privacy and innovation, Simon McDougall is a great fit for this new role, which will strengthen our expertise and responsiveness to new challenges and opportunities,” she said.

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