Double blow for UK data protection

double blow for UK data protectionThe ICO is facing the loss of two of its most experienced senior executives with Deputy Commissioner David Smith to step down just weeks before Commissioner Christopher Graham is also due to go at the beginning of next year.
The timing of the move is hardly ideal; with the EU General Data Protection Regulation expected to be passed by December, the regulator will need a crack team to lay out implementation of the new laws.
Smith, who is retiring towards the end of the year, is the longest serving chief at the ICO, sitting on both its management board and executive team. He joined the regulator – then known as the Office of the Data Protection Registrar – in 1990 and was promoted to Deputy Commissioner with responsibility for the data protection supervisory functions in 2005.
As well as providing data protection leadership across the ICO, Smith is in charge of the ICO’s relations with its key stakeholders. He also represents the UK on the so-called Article 29 Working Party, which is made up of all the regulators from EU member states.
Meanwhile Graham signed up for another two years in 2014, but has already urged the main political parties that the incoming Government should advertise for a new Commissioner as soon as possible, with a view to him stepping down in early 2016. He has been in the role since 2009.
The ICO is already advertising for a new Deputy Commissioner, which commands a salary of up to £80,000, while the Commissioner is paid up to £145,000.
However, despite union claims that ICO executives command “fat cat” salaries, these renumeration packages are virtually chicken feed compared to similar roles in the private sector.
For instance, a data protection lawyer, who is a partner in a practice, can command up to £800,000 a year, so most private sector lawyers would not give either job a second glance.
Both roles are far more likely to be filled by executives already working in the public sector; Smith joined from union Nalgo (now Unison), while Graham was previously director general of the ASA and worked for the BBC since the mid-1970s, including serving as secretary to the Board of Governors.
The ICO will be hoping that it does not suffer the same fate as the European Commission, which took over a year to find a successor for European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx, after initially rejecting all candidates for his role. The Commission has only recently appointed Hustinx’s deputy, Giovanni Buttarelli, to the post.

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