ICO strikes back at claims it has shut down all cases

ico n1The Information Commissioner’s Office has hit back at claims that it has shut up shop due to Covid-19, insisting it continues to investigate 90% of cases despite the ongoing crisis.

The move follows a stream of negative press for the regulator. First up, the ICO said it was pausing the investigation into real-time bidding, because it did not want to put “undue pressure on any industry at this time”. The decision was branded “astounding”.

Next, Commissioner Elizabeth Denham let slip that the proposed GDPR fines for British Airways (£183m) and Marriott International (£99m) had been delayed for the third time, until August, sparking predictions that they would be drastically reduced.

Thirdly, it emerged that the ICO was facing a major independent audit – ordered by the Government – following a Parliamentary report which questioned whether it was fit for purpose.

Finally, the Open Rights Group has written to the ICO demanding clarification over current priorities. This was sparked by a letter sent by the regulator to a lawyer filing a data protection complaint, which suggested the watchdog had paused new investigations to avoid adding pressure to companies already struggling with the pandemic.

However, the ICO strongly refutes this, insisting it is working close to business as usual.

A spokesperson said: “It is not true that the ICO has stopped taking complaints and investigations forward. Our focus continues to be protecting privacy and information rights. Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, we have only paused 10% of cases and investigations. These are specific cases where progressing regulatory activity may not be possible or appropriate during a global health emergency.

“We continue to look at every complaint and data breach report, focusing on the information rights issues that are likely to cause the most harm or distress to people and organisations. Our regulatory posture remains under regular review and will evolve in line with the impact of the public health emergency on those we regulate.”

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