John Edwards begins his new role as UK Information Commissioner today (Tuesday 4 January).
Mr Edwards, who joins on a five year term, spent the past eight years as New Zealand Privacy Commissioner, and before that worked as a barrister.
He succeeds Elizabeth Denham CBE, whose term as UK Information Commissioner ended last year.
Mr Edwards said: “Privacy is a right not a privilege. In a world where our personal data can drive everything from the healthcare we receive to the job opportunities we see, we all deserve to have our data treated with respect.
“My role is to work with those to whom we entrust our data so they are able to respect our privacy with ease whilst still reaping the benefits of data-driven innovation. I also want to empower people to understand and influence how they want their data to be used, and to make it easy for people to access remedies if things go wrong.
“I know from experience that the team at the ICO are entirely dedicated to privacy and information rights, and to supporting organisations and consumers alike. The ICO has an international reputation for forward thinking and clear assessment of the practicalities of the law, which I will continue to promote. And I know too of the active data protection community in the UK – I look forward to hearing the experiences of businesses, the public sector, civil society and the privacy community.
“I welcome the opportunity to oversee the crucial Freedom of Information Act. Transparency that helps people understand and trust decisions made on their behalf has perhaps never been as relevant as across the past two years. I look forward to ensuring the law continues to be relevant in our changing world.”
Mr Edwards appointment comes at the start of a busy year for information rights in the UK. The ICO will be actively engaging with the government over the proposed reforms to the Data Protection Act and introduction of the Online Safety Bill, as well as strengthening links with other digital regulators. The ICO will also continue to prioritise its work to protect children online, through the Age Appropriate Design Code, which has already prompted international tech companies to make changes to better respect children’s rights online.
Mr Edwards was educated in New Plymouth, New Zealand and achieved a Bachelor of Laws and Masters in Public Policy at the University of Wellington.
He worked as a solicitor and barrister for more than 14 years, including time as a policy adviser to the New Zealand Prime Minister and Cabinet around Freedom of Information.
From February 2014 to December 2021 he was New Zealand Privacy Commissioner. During that time he chaired the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (now known as the Global Privacy Assembly), and was a member of the OECD’s Informal Group of Experts on Children in the Digital Environment.