The ICO drafts in expertise of former diplomat

Former British diplomat Rob Luke takes up the role of the ICO’s second deputy commissioner in January 2017

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has appointed the former British high commissioner to Malta, Rob Luke, as a deputy commissioner.

Luke joins fellow deputy commissioner Simon Entwistle in supporting information commissioner Elizabeth Denham, and replaces Steve Wood, who held the role on an interim basis.

In a recruitment drive in September 2016, the ICO described the post as a “senior opportunity at an exciting time” and that the successful applicant would help set the ICO’s strategic plans and objectives, as well as lead on certain policy areas.

Luke is to join the ICO on 30 January 2017. He served as British high commissioner to Malta from 2012 to 2016, and previously served as counsellor for justice and home affairs at the British embassy in Paris, head of the war crimes section of the foreign and commonwealth office in London, and political and press officer in the British embassy in Brasilia.

“This is a time of change for information rights, but it is an exciting time,” said Denham. “The new General Data Protection Regulation [GDPR] brings an opportunity to look at how we all do things afresh, and the ICO will be at the forefront of that, helping organisations to improve how they comply with the law.”

Luke said the information rights landscape is evolving rapidly. “I look forward to working as part of the ICO team in anticipating and shaping that change in the public’s interest, engaging closely with our numerous stakeholders,” he said.

Denham said Luke will be a key part of the work and the ICO will draw heavily on his leadership skills. “He will be central to our work to evolve the ICO to make sure we stay relevant, both to the public and the organisations we regulate.”

“The digital world is a smaller world. The ICO will be taking an internationalist approach, continuing and growing our work with regulators worldwide. Rob’s experience will be invaluable, and I look forward to working with him,” she said.

Read more about GDPR

Denham, who has worked as a regulator of privacy rights and information access for more than 12 years in Canada, said in her maiden speech as information commissioner in September 2016 that one of her main aims is to stay relevant to citizens and consumers.

She also admitted that the Brexit vote had thrown the data protection plans of the ICO into “state of flux”, but said while the European Union (EU) referendum result had made her job more challenging, the ICO was well-prepared and will continue to provide advice and guidance around GDPR.

Denham said the ICO is working to ensure that the UK’s post-Brexit data protection law is progressive, stands up to scrutiny and provides stability. In October 2016, she welcomed the UK government’s confirmation that it will implement the GDPR despite the Brexit vote.

“I see this as good news for the UK. One of the key drivers for data protection change is the importance and continuing evolution of the digital economy in the UK and around the world,” she said in a blog post

“The digital economy is primarily built on the collection and exchange of data, including large amounts of personal data – much of it sensitive. Growth in the digital economy requires public confidence in the protection of this information,” she wrote.

Read more on Privacy and data protection