ICO warns it needs stronger powers and funding to better police data use

The Information Commissioner has warned that his department needs stronger powers and better funding to deal with a rise in the number of cases the ICO is expected to handle.

This comes off the back of the yearly report from the Information Commissioner's Office, which shows that the ICO handled 260,000 calls via its helpline, and it resolved 15,492 data protection complaints – with both of those figures up over 10 per cent year-on-year.

The ICO also made decisions on 5,296 freedom of information complaints, which was up 12 per cent on the previous year.

Despite this rise in workload, the Information Commissioner noted that the ICO had faced a reduction in funding for FOI cases over the last five years – and that proposed EU legislation on data protection could remove the notification fee which funds the ICO's work along these lines.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham argued that the ICO needs to be properly funded, and that an independent regulator with strong powers has never been as important in this day and age of Facebook "emotion" experiments and Google's "right to be forgotten" judgements.

In a statement, Graham said: "Facebook, care.data, Google: it is clear that organisations' use of data is getting ever more complicated. People need to know someone is watching over their information. That needs to be someone who's independent, of government and business, so the public know the regulator can be trusted."

He continued: "Independence means someone who's got the resources to take on this ever-growing number of cases... And it also means having the powers to act on the more serious complaints. A strong regulator is needed if a data breach affects millions of people."

"That someone is the Information Commissioner. We're effective, efficient and busier than ever. But to do our job properly, to represent people properly, we need stronger powers, more sustainable funding and a clearer guarantee of independence."