UK information commissioner to step down

The U.K.’s information commissioner, Elizabeth France, will be leaving her post when her contract expires in November, the Office of the Information Commissioner confirmed on Friday.

“There has been mention in the press that (France) is leaving because of her concerns about the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act, but basically, the reason why she is stepping down is that she had only planned to stay for two terms, and by November she will have held the post for eight years,” said Jill Nonis, marketing and communications officer for the information commissioner.

France, who as information commissioner is responsible for the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Acts in the U.K., has been publically critical of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 that was passed by Parliament on Dec. 14, 2001. In particular, France has expressed concerns about Part 11 of the Act, the Retention of Communications Data, which dictates that communications data must retained by ISPs (Internet service providers) under a voluntary Code of Practice. She has said that this may violate Article 8 of the Human Rights Act by interfering with a person’s right to respect for private and family life.

France has been at odds with the creators of the Act, the Home Office and its head, Home Secretary David Blunkett, since suggesting that the Home Office might attempt to replace the voluntary mechanism in the Act with compulsory requirements at a future date.

In its original form, the bill aimed to “safeguard national security” by granting the Secretary of State the power to order ISPs to hold data communications for a set period determined by the Secretary, or risk being jailed. However, the Home Office was forced to compromise in order to quell opposition from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

A replacement for France is currently being sought, Nonis said.

The Home Office, in London, can be contacted at

. The Office of the Information Commissioner, in Wilmslow, England, can be contacted at

. More information on the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 can be found at