New Zealand privacy commissioner tipped to become next ICO head

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John Edwards, New Zealand’s current data protection officer, is to replace Elizabeth Denham as the United Kingdom’s information officer.

The Times reports that his appointment will be approved by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The report states that an independent panel has already selected Edwards as a preferred candidate and that his appointment was further supported by digital secretary Oliver Dowden.

Edwards has been New Zealand’s Data Protection Officer since February 2014 and is currently in his second five-year term. Prior to taking office, he was a Wellington attorney with over 20 years of experience in information law. He has also served in the New Zealand Government Department of Health, the State Services Commission and has worked directly with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

A number of reports have portrayed Edwards as “anti-Facebook”, with the Times calling him a “Facebook hater” based in part on previous statements he made through the social network. In 2019, following the Christchurch Mosque massacres, Edwards publicly scalded Facebook for his lack of comment on the matter – which went viral on the site. “Your silence is an insult to our grief,” he was quoted as saying.

Just a month later, Edwards took to Twitter to accuse Facebook of “morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide (Myanmar) to facilitate foreign undermining of democratic institutions #DontGiveaZuck”. Edwards went on to delete the tweet, but only because it attracted “poisonous” comments.

IT Pro contacted the Ministry of Culture, Media and Sport about the reports. Edwards himself declined to speak to the New Zealand Herald.

Denham will leave the role this fall after extending her term as the search for a successor continues. It is believed that Edwards, along with his stance on companies like Facebook, goes well with the government’s own plans to regulate big tech.