Many things have changed due to COVID-19, including the priorities of the UK Information Commissioner who recently clarified what she will be focusing on over the next few months and further ahead. 

The Information Commissioner's Office ("ICO") has reshaped its priorities, aiming to: 

  • protect the public interest (issues likely to cause the most harm or distress to individuals and businesses); 
  • enable "responsible" data sharing (sharing of data for the public good and responding to risks from failing to share data); and 
  • monitoring intrusive and disruptive technology (protecting privacy whilst also enabling innovation and the economy). 

The ICO has 6 priorities, which are: 

  1. protecting vulnerable individuals - identifying and taking action against anyone attempting to use or obtain personal data unlawfully or inappropriately during COVID-19; 
  2. supporting economic growth and digitisation - ICO intends to provide access to information, support and practical tools for businesses to facilitate growth (e.g. sharing personal data, developing AI tech) in a compliant way; 
  3. proportionate surveillance - focus on medium term privacy and information rights impacts of COVID-19, including contact tracing, testing and emerging surveillance issues; 
  4. good practice in AI - ensuring privacy considerations are engineered into use of AI, from consumer products to surveillance applications; 
  5. transparency - supporting organisations to be transparent; 
  6. business continuity - while some ICO projects are being paused, such as its investigation into Real Time Bidding and AdTech (which you can read about here), the ICO will still be dealing with complaints, investigating data breach reports and discharging its statutory functions. 

In the coming months, the ICO will be deciding how and when any projects that are paused will resume. 

Whilst many of these priorities are familiar, such as the focus on AI, transparency, surveillance and data sharing, it is useful to have confirmation from the UK data protection authority of the areas it will focus on during these unprecedented times. 

You can read the ICO's statement in full here

You can also read our summary of the ICO's regulatory approach during the COVID-19 public health emergency here