Writing in a blog post, Commissioner Christopher Graham unveiled a consultation document which some are seeing as a “cry for help” from the watchdog.
The ICO has already warned MPs the regulator could face a £43m “black hole” in its finances if the EU Data Protection Regulation – which will end the notification system that generates a major chunk of the ICO’s income – is passed next year.
According to its most recent annual report, the ICO received around £15.7m from notification fees and £4.25m from grant-in-aid. It gets nearly 4,500 calls a week and has seen a 45% rise in the number of cases probed by the civil enforcement team.
In a swipe at its current government funding regime, the ICO said: “We’re less able to respond effectively to the growing demand for our services due to the outdated way in which the ICO is funded – part by grant-in-aid for our freedom of information work and part by a notification fee system for data protection. Grant-in-aid has been cut by a third since 2010 and the cuts go on. The notification system is due to be ended under proposals for a new EU Regulation on data protection.”
Among ideas being put up for discussion, the ICO suggests co-ordinating more with other organisations and regulators – such as Ofcom, the Financial Ombudsman, the Ministry of Justice and other commissioners – and plugging “significant gaps” in its regulatory powers.
This could mean pushing for courts to be able to imprison, rather than just fine, people to stop the unlawful use of personal information. It is also looking at developing privacy kitemarks and accreditations. A spokesman said: “We would be looking at potentially accrediting other organisations so they could award privacy seals on our behalf.”
The ICO is also looking to handle more work online and cutting the cost of its back-office services including considering shared services. It currently has 360 to 370 staff.
Graham added: “There are some significant changes in direction. There’s a notable shift in focus towards getting results for the many by acting on the concerns of individuals, as well as a significant commitment towards exploring the development of trust marks and privacy seals so that the ICO is not the first and last line of defence for citizens and consumers’ rights.”
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