News surfaced yesterday that a new Information Commissioner is to be appointed, when current chief Richard Thomas steps down. According to the reports, Justice minister Jack Straw has recommended current Advertising Standards Agency chief Christopher Graham for the job, and although it apparently still has to be ratified by Commons select committee MPs, the ICO is already saying Graham will be its new leader.
It is widely believed that Thomas will retire at the end of June, and although his replacement has voiced the usual "keen to take on this new challenge" and "one of the best jobs in the world" platitudes, he will be a little nervous about filling the big man's shoes.
For one thing, Graham will need to keep a higher profile than he does at the ASA. Thomas did a great job of lobbying for more powers through his frequent outspoken tirades on the erosion of privacy and data protection laws; it took a while but he eventually managed to get them, at the tail end of last year.
Often so-called 'watchdogs' are little more than a toothless annoyance for industry and the government; but a lot of the ground work has already been laid by Thomas to ensure this is not the case, and Graham will do well to keep pushing the ICO onwards in the same vein. One major legislative matter he may have to deal with is the possible introduction of data breach notification laws at an EU level, to which Thomas has voiced his opposition in the past.
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