ICO blog: Warsaw conference lays foundations for progress in international coordination

The International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners draws to a close today in Warsaw, after a week of meetings with counterparts from around the world.

The ICO team has been hard at work: active in the private commissioners’ conference, contributing to the open session panels, meeting with key stakeholders, running breakfast briefings and all the time being button-holed and lobbied.

This was the 35th year the international conference has been held, though the agenda at the 1979 event would surely have borne little resemblance to this week’s topics.

Few attendees then would have envisaged social media or big data, nor would they have recognised the ‘Information Commissioner’s Office’, with even our fore-runner the Data Protection Registrar still five years away.

But one key area of discussion remains consistent: the need for better international cooperation. That was a key focus for the ICO, and both Deputy Commissioner David Smith and I spoke at sessions focussed on changing a status quo where much legislation is still very much a national and regional affair at best.

As technology makes the world a global communications village, and service providers are increasingly global players, it’s particularly important we get that coordination around enforcement right. The work we’ve done this week has laid the foundations for real progress in this field over the next twelve months, including an agreement to develop a common approach to cross-border enforcement action.

The conference addressed the major global regulatory topics of the day, including government surveillance, mobile phone apps and big data, as well as offering support to countries who are only just dipping their toes in the regulatory pool in their attempts to set up a framework of privacy law. We’re working with the Canadians to establish a network of Commonwealth nations with an interest in/need for effective data protection.

Also on the agenda was, of course, the EU data protection reform. There’s a race to agree negotiating positions over the next month. Then the Commission, Council and Parliament have to agree the Regulation and if that works, then also the draft Directive on law enforcement which relies on key provisions from the Regulation. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, the Snowden revelations have exploded like a jumping jack and with equally unpredictable results. Our view remains that we want to see reform happen, but we want to see an outcome that will be fit for purpose for the coming years. The goal is consistency in practice, not just in theory. Watch this space.

A very useful, if very busy, week then. It would be remiss not to end with a word of thanks to the organisers, the Polish Inspector General for Personal Data Protection (GIODO). They made us very welcome, and organised a highly successful conference: dziękuję Warszawa, as we’ve learned to say. Thank you, Warsaw.

Christopher GrahamChristopher Graham, Information Commissioner, has a range of responsibilities under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Data Protection Act 1998 and related laws.
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