DATA watchdog chief Elizabeth Denman has said she is “passionate” about whistle-blowers — days after launching raids to catch sources for The Sun’s Matt Hancock story.
The Information Commissioner triggered a furious backlash from campaigners, politicians and the Press for seizing computers in two homes last week.
They were looking for the source of leaked CCTV footage showing the disgraced Health Secretary canoodling in his office with an aide at the height of lockdown.
But yesterday Denman was forced to issue a statement attempting to justify her heavy-handed response – claiming she loves journalists.
She insisted she had a “statutory responsibility” to investigate reports of a data breach “administering the laws that Parliament has given us”.
But she claimed: “I’m also passionate about free journalism, the importance of an independent press and I’m also passionate about whistleblowers.”
“But whistleblowers and the public interest turns on us establishing the facts in this case, so it’s important that we go in and we look at the facts and only then will we make a determination as to whether this data breach was in the public interest.
“Sabes, from the other side of the equation, there is a lot of concern in the security community and among the public that their personal information collected on CCTV is used for security purposes.
“On the one hand, we have the security stakeholders saying, ‘Get in there and investigate’ and on the other side people somehow think we’re investigating El sol or journalists and we are not, we’re looking at whether or not there was a contravention of the law, the data protection law.”
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The ICO said at the time of the raids that Emcor Group, which provides CCTV services at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), submitted a breach report alleging the images were taken from the system without consent.
According to the regulator, the alleged breach falls under Section 170 of the Data Protection Act 2018, which does include a “public interest” defence under certain circumstances.
Ms Denham also said she would not be seeking information from The Sun, after our editor-in-chief Victoria Newton said she would rather go to jail than reveal the names of their informants.