John Edwards appointed as the next UK Information Commissioner

The House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has approved the appointment of John Edwards as the next Information Commissioner. Mr Edwards has been the New Zealand Privacy Commissioner since February 2014. Prior to becoming NZ Information Commissioner, Edwards worked as a lawyer specialising in information law.

At a pre-appointment hearing with the DCMS Select Committee on 9 September, Edwards said that the UK is entitled to find its own way after Brexit - there is plenty of scope for difference from the EU. Edwards emphasised to the Committee that New Zealand has an EU adequacy finding despite the law not being identical with the EU GDPR.

It is very unlikely the UK will diverge from the essence of European data protection values. The UK should not start its reform with one eye in Europe, he said, but find a way that is best for the UK.

Edwards stressed that there can be different interpretations leading to the same goal. He regards the role of the UK Information Commissioner as acting as a conduit feeding information to the government and, in a quasi-diplomatic capacity, extending conversations to his global DPA colleagues.

He said that the UK is a big enough economy ‘to go its own way.’ But he said there is no need to start legislating from scratch to make real changes.

Edwards has been critical of big Tech in the past. However, he said in the DCMS interview that large multinationals can expect fair and impartial treatment.

“These are nation-state sized enterprises. The fact that they are one and we, DPAs are many, creates difficulty in engaging with them at a national level.”

A longer article will be published in Privacy Laws & Business UK Report later this week.