The UK’s information watchdog has come under attack for ‘disparaging’ comments, after July’s historic Named Person scheme ruling.
It has emerged that officials at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) made dismissive comments on the ruling in emails – despite being directly affected by it.
One senior ICO member told a colleague in Scotland that she had no idea what the judgment was about, saying she did not have the “time or inclination” to read it.
Her colleague, a Senior Policy Officer at the ICO’s Edinburgh office, replied saying “I don’t particularly blame you”.
Internal emails also revealed that the Head of the ICO in Scotland, Ken Macdonald, expressed “disappointment”, when he heard that judges had struck down central data-sharing provisions in the Named Person scheme.
These provisions were found to have breached the right to a private and family life, under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
A spokesman for the No to Named Persons campaign (NO2NP), which successfully challenged the Scottish Government’s plans, said:
“The ICO as an independent body has been entrusted to uphold information rights, oversee data protection and investigate complaints from members of the public.
“Yet here we find ICO officials behaving in a most dismissive manner about a court case which goes to the heart of their work and has profound implications for personal privacy and data protection.
“It is disturbing that this kind of culture exists within the ICO. Perhaps there should be a review to address the problem”.
On 28 July 2016, five UK Supreme Court judges unanimously struck down the central provisions of the Named Person scheme.
Following the decision, concerns were raised that pilot versions of the scheme had been operating illegally, because officials shared data on families without consent or justification for doing so.
Unlawful sharing of private data is a contravention of the UK-wide Data Protection Act – which the ICO is responsible for enforcing.
The ICO eventually called for a review of all Named Person pilots, saying they must be “in compliance with legislative obligations under current law”.