The ICO’s strategy sets out four key initiatives, which focus on being an “influential data protection authority” in Europe both before and after Brexit and ensuring that the UK’s data protection laws are maintained at a high global standard.
It also aims to address the uncertainty of the legal protections for international data flows to and from the EU, and beyond, including adequacy.
The strategy aims to enhance privacy protection for the UK public, no matter where in the world potential threats and risks emanate from. It also commits the ICO to learning about new ideas and developments emerging from other countries.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “There is little doubt that there are challenging times ahead but we are well placed to tackle them. We have a powerful voice and it is heard around the world, but we are excellent listeners too. That is our strength.
“This blueprint for how we’ll deliver on our international objectives was informed by experts from all over the world who challenged our perceived priorities and advised on what our next steps should be.”
The move has been welcomed by technology business group TechUK. Its deputy CEO Antony Walker said: “The ICO is right to say that global data flows are central to the digital economy. International data flows underpin our ability to trade in services and goods. Without an adequacy decision small businesses will be hit by significant costs, legal uncertainties and red tape that will hamper their ability to do business across the EU on equal terms.
“This is an issue that would negatively impact businesses in the UK and the EU27. Addressing data flows must be a priority for both the UK and the EU in the Brexit negotiations and we are are pleased to see that the ICO is determined to play a supportive role."
According to a study carried out by professional services firm PwC, the ICO is already the toughest regulator in the EU; in 2016, the ICO levied £3.25m worth of fines - an increase of £1.2m from 2015 - with the number of data privacy issues almost doubling. Italy was the second, dishing out €3.3m (£2.9m) worth of fines.