The UK government’s preferred candidate to be the next information commissioner will be John Edwards, who currently serves as New Zealand’s current privacy commissioner.

The information commissioner plays an increasingly important role in the UK’s regulatory landscape following the country’s departure from the EU.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is an independent body that regulates the GDPR and its UK equivalent, the Data Protection Act 2018, as well as the Freedom of Information Act, the NIS Directive — transposed into UK law as the Network and Information Systems Regulation 2018 — and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), which govern nuisance calls and spam.

Edwards was appointed privacy commissioner in 2014 and is currently serving his second five-year term in New Zealand. He brings with him over two decades of regulatory and legal experience.

Edwards will now appear before MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee for pre-appointment scrutiny on September 9.

He will arrive at a key moment for the UK as it seeks to strike multibillion-pound “data adequacy” agreements with the US, Australia and South Korea, and navigate a tricky relationship with the EU.

Although the bloc has adopted a data adequacy decision enabling the free flow of information to and from the continent, it may be challenged in court given concerns that the UK’s intelligence services could snoop on European citizens’ data.

“There is a great opportunity to build on the wonderful work already done and I look forward to the challenge of steering the organisation and the British economy into a position of international leadership in the safe and trusted use of data for the benefit of all,” said Edwards.

Current information commissioner Elizabeth Denham claimed her office had supported innovation while driving public trust in data use during the pandemic.

“Implementing any changes parliament decides on will fall to my successor, who will take on a role that has never been more important or more relevant to people’s lives,” she added.

“John Edwards would bring extraordinary breadth, international leadership and credibility to this role. He will receive the support of a modern, independent ICO that has the courage, resources and expertise to make a positive difference to people’s lives.”

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