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Information Commissioner calls in tech experts

Aims to avoid future pants-down incidents

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The Information Commissioner plans to appoint a panel of experts to advise his office on new technologies, following criticism it has been caught off-guard by emerging privacy threats.

The ICO's executive team decided (pdf) to create a Technology Reference Panel in July.

Its members - "trusted experts with a range of experience" - will be unpaid and meet twice a year to discuss emerging technologies. They will also be called on throughout the year to advise on ongoing issues.

The panel will not, however, have any input on individual complaints against data controllers and its members will not act as expert witnesses during investigations. The ICO will continue to buy in such outside help as required.

Getting better technical advice was mooted in the ICO's business plan for the next three years, published in April. It calls for regulators to "develop our understanding of the impact of technology on privacy and ensure that this informs our policy making" and "stay ahead of developments, particularly in technology and systems, so as to offer an informed perspective on their regulation".

The move is an acknowledgement that rapidly-developing technologies such as deep packet inspection and location-based services require closer scrutiny, which the ICO does not currently have the expertise to deliver. Recent controversies over behavioural advertising and Google's Street View data collection operation have prompted criticism of the regulator.

The ICO hasn't yet decided how it will choose or appoint its technology experts. The Data Protector blog spotted the decision to approve the panel. ®

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