The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK has put together a code of practice to govern the use of personal information in journalism. This code, which has been handed over to the Secretary of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, has been designed to provide actionable, practical guidance on staying within data protection laws while using personal information for journalistic purposes. The ICO has also released reference notes to offer additional information about the law and provide examples from case law to illustrate the application of the code.
This code is the result of an extensive consultation process, with media organisations, industry representatives and civil society all providing feedback to refine it. The objective is to maintain the delicate balance between the freedom of the press and the privacy of individuals. It’s all about protecting personal information while allowing journalists to do their job – a balance that Information Commissioner, John Edwards, believes has been achieved.
The creation of the code was mandated by Parliament and builds on previous media guidance published in 2014 in response to recommendations from the Leveson Inquiry. It is considered a statutory code under section 124 of the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018). However, for the code to be enforceable, it must go through the statutory process outlined in section 125 of the DPA 2018 and be laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State.
The ICO is an independent regulator for data protection and information rights law in the UK, with a mission to uphold information rights in the public interest, promote openness by public bodies and secure data privacy for individuals. It has various responsibilities under a number of acts and regulations, and has the authority to take action to regulate the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information.