New Zealand privacy commissioner tipped to become next ICO head

NZ privacy commissioner John Edwards
(Image credit: NZPrivacy.org)

John Edwards, New Zealand's current privacy commissioner, has been tipped to take over from Elizabeth Denham as the UK's Information Commissioner.

The Times reports that his appointment is pending approval from prime minister Boris Johnson.

The report states that an independent panel has already selected Edwards as the preferred candidate and that his appointment has received further support from digital secretary Oliver Dowden.

Edwards has been New Zealand's privacy commissioner since February 2014 and is currently serving his second five-year term. Before taking on the role, he practiced law in Wellington, with over 20-years of experience specialising in information law. He has also served in the New Zealand government's Ministry of Health, state services commission, and has worked directly with the prime minister and the cabinet.

A number of reports have depicted Edwards as 'anti-Facebook', with The Times referring to him as "Facebook-hating", partly based on previous statements he has made about the social network. In 2019, in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque massacres, Edwards publicly scalded Facebook for its 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 being "morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide (Myanmar), facilitate foreign undermining of democratic institutions #DontGiveaZuck". Edwards did go on to delete the tweet, but only because it had attracted "toxic" comments.

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IT Pro has approached the Department of Culture, Media and Sport regarding the reports. Edwards himself declined to comment to the New Zealand Herald.

Denham is set to leave the role in the autumn, having extended her term while the search for a successor continues. It is thought that Edwards, along with his stance on firms like Facebook, sit well with the government's own plans to regulate big tech.

Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognise him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.