ICO gets powers to conduct financial investigations


Accredited ICO finance investigators, in conjunction with the Department of Transportation, the London Fire Commissioner and Northern Ireland’s Department of Commerce, can now conduct inquiries, seek injunctions and conduct search and seizure exercises if they believe cash has been obtained or is intended for criminal activity.

The law allows financial investigators to exercise powers normally conferred on law enforcement officers such as law enforcement officers.

The changes were made by the Ordinance on the Investigation Revenue Act 2002 (referrals to financial investigators) 2021, which comes into force on June 28, 2021.

Data protection law expert Laura Gillespie of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “The introduction of this law is a major milestone for the ICO in its approach to criminal behavior.

“Previously, the ICO had to work with other agencies to conduct financial investigations. Given the potential financial gain from criminal activity involving personal data, it is clear that having direct authority to conduct financial investigations and seek judicial confiscation of assets is of great importance. This is especially true given the increasing prevalence of ransomware attacks, ”said Gillespie.

Gillespie cited the recent seizure of $ 2.3 million in cryptocurrency by the U.S. Department of Justice as an example of the type of activity the ICO can potentially conduct now. The sum was paid to ransomware extortionists, which allegedly represented the proceeds of a payment to individuals from a group known as Darkside that targeted the Colonial Pipeline oil company.

“The ICO’s ability to directly track the proceeds of crime will be vital in the fight against cybercrime,” said Gillespie.

The ICO requested direct powers under POCA in November 2019 and opened a consultation on the proposal. It was said at the time that it had previously relied on the help of partner agencies to exercise powers under POCA, but that help was no longer available.