ICOThe UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is encouraging enterprises and organisation to consider secondments of suitable personnel to the ICO. It argues in a blog that this has benefits for both the ICO (more people resources at less cost) and the enterprise or organisation (obtaining relevant experience).

Simon McDougall, ICO Executive Director for Technology and Innovation
Simon McDougall, ICO Executive Director for Technology and Innovation

Simon McDougall, ICO Executive Director for Technology and Innovation said: “The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is a varied and exciting place to work. On any given day, our employees might be investigating the potentially unlawful use of personal information to sell people goods, services or even political messages, or considering the privacy implications of emerging technologies such as facial recognition and artificial intelligence. They might be taking action against organisations responsible for data breaches, nuisance calls or excessive delays to freedom of information requests, or liaising with our counterparts overseas on international policy developments.

“We have significantly expanded our permanent workforce over the last two years but we are also keen to increase the variety and number of people who join us on temporary secondment from other organisations.”

The ICO secondment

The ICO’s view is that secondments can support the ICO’s work – by bringing to it:

  • specific (external, to the ICO) expertise
  • fresh thinking
  • new ways of looking at, approaching or managing information issues.

This should work in reverse. Secondees obtain benefits from working at the ICO – as do their permanent employers in terms of expanding:

  • knowledge
  • skills
  • experience.

The theory is that the experience that secondees gain will:

  • make them better and more valuable employees when they return
  • improve their own personal expertise
  • look good on CVs.

The ICO argues that there should be a reputational benefit for those organisations whose staff do go to work with the ICO.


Secondees could come from the public or private sector. There is no apparent constraint on the range of backgrounds acceptable to the ICO. They could include experts in:

  • policy
  • the law
  • cyber-security
  • audit
  • investigations
  • international relations
  • IT
  • information governance
  • communications
  • customer service
  • finance
  • organisational development
  • research
  • grants
  • project management.

While prior experience in the legislation overseen by the ICO is desirable, it is apparently not essential. The blog proclaims “we are happy to consider people with a wide range of expertise, and a passion for what they do“.

Current focus areas

Currently the ICO is keen to recruit in the (ICO’s) Technology Policy and Innovation Service. This considers exploring and predicting future privacy challenges. It is, at present, looking at technical specialists with knowledge and experience of:

  • cybersecurity
  • artificial intelligence
  • adtech
  • privacy enhancing techniques (for example, anonymisation, pseudonymisation, differential privacy and homomorphic encryption)
  • biometric technologies
  • IoT, including areas such as smart cities and smart speakers
  • connected and autonomous vehicles
  • horizon scanning (the ability to identify and evaluate emerging technologies and assess their potential impact on information rights).

On a ‘less technical level’ the ICO is particularly looking for:

  • policy specialists
  • project managers
  • people with experience of audit and risk management.

Enterprise Times: what does this mean

The ICO expectation is that secondments would for 6-24 month – although the blog says, in some circumstances, it would consider shorter periods. Secondees would retain their parent organisation’s employment terms and conditions but would sign a:

  • confidentiality agreement
  • code of conduct
  • declaration of any political affiliations.

Approaches to the ICO are possible from individuals or enterprises/organisations though, obviously, both employer and employee must agree to all the details of the secondments.

In the analysis of Enterprise Times, this could be a win/win situation. The ICO needs substantial resources if it is to deliver on its mandate. The demand and its scope are expanding, however, beyond its budget. If the UK is to have a competent Information Commissioner’s Office but it is not adequately funded, this secondment approach has distinct advantages for each of the ICO, employers and employees.


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