Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has insisted that her office should play a central role in any future regulation of social media and tech giants, branding MPs’ calls for new legislation a “knee-jerk reaction”.
Speaking at the Institute for Government, Denham's remarks follow growing concerns over the content being served to children on the likes of Instagram and Facebook.
The Government is already planning to publish an Online Harms White Paper to set out expectations for companies to keep users, in particular children, safe. This will be followed by a consultation over the summer and will set out new legislative measures to ensure that the platforms remove illegal content and prioritise the protection of users, especially children, young people and vulnerable adults.
However, Denham claims the ICO has a key role to play. She said: "You can't take the ICO out of the online harms discussion. We have the ability to reach across borders, which no other regulator in the UK has right now.
"We have extra-territorial reach to investigate in Silicon Valley and we've had the experience of doing that in Facebook/Cambridge Analytica. We have the ability to audit tech companies for their governance and their data protection practices. We have that ability now, but it’s limited to data protection.
“[The decision] is one for government and parliament, but you can’t take the data protection regulator out of the mix given [data] personalisation being really at the centre of a lot of these harms.”