Information commissioner Christopher Graham kick starts V3's Hot Seat this week to discuss his career so far, the fear he has of committing a data breach, and the last book he read, among other issues.
As the UK's information commissioner, Graham fights to protect the privacy of individuals by ensuring both private and public sector organisation protect data, while encouraging the public sector to be more open with its data whereever possible.
Since Graham took on the role, V3 has followed his work, from the recent £180,000 fines he issued to Croydon and Norfolk councils for poor data practices, to his calls during the phone hacking scandal for the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to be given the power to jail those found guilty of stealing personal data.
A former BBC journalist, Graham was director general of the Advertising Standards Authority from April 2000 to June 2009.
V3: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Christopher Graham: Being the BBC secretary at the time when John Birt and Christopher Bland were developing the Digital Strategy, years ahead of the field.
I had a ringside seat. It was exciting and I learned a lot about technology, strategy and government.
What was your first job?
I was a holiday relief cashier in the Broadcasting House cash office, filling pay packets for the weekly staff. I was very good with the 10 bob notes.
What's your favourite thing about working in the IT industry?
Balancing the right to privacy and the right to know. The information commissioner plays an important part in debates around transparency and open data. We help to make things happen.
What keeps you awake at night?
The thought of reporting myself to myself for a serious data breach - and then hitting myself with a Civil Monetary Penalty.
Alternatively, considering a section 50 complaint about myself for refusing to release ICO material under the Freedom of Information Act. It goes with the commissioner being ‘a Corporation Sole'.
How are you finding the ICO job?
I didn't expect it to be so hip and happening. I came from the world of advertising and the ICO role got very relevant very quickly.
In my second week, we had The Guardian story about phone hacking break. Then, after the general election, the coalition government made it their goal to increase transparency and information rights was moved up the political agenda.
Governments previously were more passive about protecting personal data, releasing public data [only] when requested.
This administration has a more active interest in accountability and also wants to do stuff with public data to give power to the citizen and consumer.
What was the last book you read and was it any good?
Steve Radcliffe's Leadership Pure and Simple. The Future, Engage, Deliver approach is a helpful way of framing strategy in testing times.
If you want to volunteer for V3's Hot Seat, or want to suggest an IT leader you think should take part, please email [email protected] for more details.
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