Elizabeth Denham wins Society Medal for IT contribution

UK information commissioner Elizabeth Denham CBE has been announced the winner of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT’s prestigious Society Medal 2020.

The new annual award recognises Denham’s outstanding contribution to making digital technology good for society.

The information commissioner’s investigation into the unlawful data collection practices in political campaigns which probed organisations such as Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, were cited by the judges.

The Institute was also impressed by her leadership in helping organisations to understand data protection legislation.

“Ethical and responsible use of information is crucial to so much of the work the ICO does,” said Elizabeth Denham, UK information commissioner. “That could be looking at how organisations can innovate with data, whilst ensuring compliance with the law as part of our Sandbox, or encouraging openness by design within public bodies in our Freedom of Information work.

“Ethical use of data is what BCS’ Society Medal represents and why I’m proud to receive it not only for myself but on behalf of my colleagues across the ICO.

“The pandemic has brought an acceleration in the uptake of digital services that would otherwise have taken years; therefore, ensuring people can trust organisations’ use of their personal data is more important than ever. The ICO will continue to work with government and businesses to help them make changes and meet the standards embedded within UK law and represented by this award.”

Kathy Farndon, chair of the BCS Society Board said: “Elizabeth Denham is an inspirational individual who is committed to making digital technology and data work for the benefit of society.

“Under her leadership, the ICO has been able to embark on the most daunting cross-border investigations on the misuse of individuals' data. She is passionate about the ethical and safe collection, storage and use of data and has achieved a huge amount in her time in office.

Her nomination cited that: “She puts the public and protection of their data first and foremost, and supports business through the complexities of information law, from nuisance calls and rogue marketing emails, to serious security and data breaches.

“Her investigation into political microtargeting and data collection practices in two of the UK's referenda is the cornerstone of Parliamentary reports on political manipulation online. The attendant report, ‘Democracy Disrupted? Personal information and political influence’ is a must-read for anyone who is concerned about democracy in the age of online platforms.”

The BCS Society Medal is a new award which recognises an outstanding individual whose work and values have helped to enhance the reputation of digital technology and its contribution to improving lives.

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