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UK: ICO and Ofcom release joint statement on aligned approach to data protection and online safety

The Information Commissioner's Office ('ICO') and Ofcom released, on 25 November 2022, a joint statement on their aligned approach to data protection and online safety. In particular, the statement sets out how both the ICO and Ofcom will work together to ensure alignment and coherence between the data protection and the new online safety regimes. In this regard, the ICO stated that, in anticipation of Ofcom taking on new duties in 2023 under the Online Safety Bill, the statement sets out their shared regulatory aims, building on the existing cooperation between the two regulators, which include:

  • wanting people who use online services to have confidence that their safety and privacy will be upheld online and that prompt and effective action will be taken when providers fail in their obligations; and
  • wanting providers of online services of all sizes to comply with their obligations and to continue to innovate and grow, supported by regulatory clarity and free from undue burden.

To this end, the statement provides that the regulators will maximise coherence between their data protection and online safety regimes and work together to promote compliance with them. More specifically, the statement notes that:

  • Ofcom will prepare codes of practice and guidance for online services on compliance with the online safety regime and will consult the ICO, amongst others, in the preparation of these; and
  • the ICO will prepare guidance on data protection expectations for online services deploying safety technologies (e.g. age assurance, content moderation) and will consult Ofcom, amongst others, in its preparation.

Moreover, the statement highlights the links between online safety and data protection, and specifies key areas where the ICO and Ofcom will cooperate. 

You can read the press release here and the statement here.