This post was also written by Nick Tyler.

Last week the UK Government announced a package of measures focused on extending the scope of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and strengthening the independence of the UK’s data protection and freedom of information regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The anticipated Freedom Bill (to be published in February 2011) will include proposals to extend the scope of FOIA to a number of organisations for the first time. The Government announced the definite inclusion of the Financial Ombudsman Service and has proposed including The Advertising Standards Authority, The Panel on Takeovers and Mergers, The Law Society, Bar Council and other approved regulators under the Legal Services Act 2007, subject to consultation. The UK Government aims to strengthen FOIA provisions to ensure the public sector proactively releases data to allow businesses, non-profit organisations and others to re-use the information for social and commercial purposes.

Another aim of the Freedom Bill is to enhance the independence of the ICO (including a greater role for Parliamentary oversight) by enabling the regulator, for the first time, to independently set charges for certain services. Sections 51(8) of the Data Protection Act and 47(4) of FOIA provide the ICO with the power to set charges for its services.

Having lain dormant we now expect these charging powers, including those under the Data Protection Act and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, to be activated, allowing the ICO to provide chargeable services for, among other things:

  • audits and assessments of data protection good practice; and
  • privacy impact assessments.

Further information about the UK Government’s announcement, and the positive reaction of the ICO, can be found in the following links: