Wednesday, 29 July 2015

ICO ponders its future funding strategy

The ICO’s latest paper on its future funding strategy shows how far its thinking has developed. (Not far.) A paper presented to the ICO’s Audit Board last month reports that it has now established a steering group to produce a short business plan.

Assessing who should register is fraught with difficulty, given the fact that there is no definitive list of businesses and even within established categories, it isn’t always possible to identify how many process data and need to notify. Also, businesses are constantly in flux, changing names, going out of business, merging etc.

Finally, given how few non-registration prosecution cases are mentioned in each ICO Annual Report, perhaps there’s not much of an incentive for those at the dodgy end of the compliance market to register in the first place. 

The new steering group will commission further research to enable the ICO to:

  • Better understand the profile of the current register;
  • Estimate the number of registerable data controllers (to give the ICO an idea of how large the public register might be if it achieved close to full coverage; and
  • Forecast future fee levels based on the expected size of the register.

You might have thought that such research would have been carried out years ago. But there’s nothing like good research to ensure that proper evidence-based decisions are made.

The steering group is also tasked with:

  • Establishing a process to review all data controllers leaving the public register;
  • Engaging with particular sectors that appear to have a lower level of registration than ought to be the case; and
  • Establishing a process to refer miscreants to the ICO’s enforcement team.

Setting the right fees are important, as if the ICO receives more in income than it spends on DP, the balance has to be remitted to the Treasury. Fee income for 2014/15 was £1.2m more than the original forecast. If not spent by the ICO, it's money down the drain.  It's as if a Civil Monetary Penalty had been levied on all UK data controllers – but for no good reason at all.

The paper makes an interesting observation about the percentages of  the number of organisations that need to register that the ICO think will be registered each year: “This needn’t be a global figure. For example it could be 100% for elected representatives, 95% for law firms and a lower figure for general business.”

I’d love to know what percentage of estate agents the ICO estimates might register. Not that high, I suspect.

In the 1950s, TV detector vans (see today’s image) began to appear as part of a Government strategy to encourage people to buy a TV licence. Will we see equivalent “ICO detector vans” patrolling our streets to encourage recalcitrant data controllers to register in a few years time? 

I wonder.