Government launches a public consultation on reforms to UK data protection regime

28th September 2021data

‘Data: a new direction’ is a public consultation launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) on 10 September 2021; it is open until 19 November 2021.

It was at the end of 2020 that the Government laid out their National Data Strategy from which the Department’s 10 Tech Priorities flowed.

It is clear that data is still very much front of mind in Government, and as they launch this consultation, they say that the reforms they want to put in place are:

‘to create an ambitious, pro-growth, and innovation-friendly data protection regime that underpins the trustworthy use of data.’ DCMS

That balance between commerciality and data protection has always been one of the core values here at Griffin House Consultancy. Both are important and, as the DCMS says in their 10 Tech Priorities: ‘Technology has transformed our lives, and will be at the heart of our recovery.’

Balancing the need to embrace innovation and technology with privacy legislation is more important than ever. The consultation announced this month is part of the journey towards creating a ‘pro-growth and trusted data regime’ in the UK.

Here are some of the most noteworthy proposals:

  • Amended ‘lawful basis’ upon which an organisation can process personal data (more expansive, not narrower). This is designed to provide greater clarity by listing specific reasons an organisation may rely on legitimate interests.  The amendments look to be primarily around scientific investigation and research and activities with an aspect of ‘public interest.’
  • Organisations may be required to run a privacy management programme – replacing some of the requirements that came in under GDPR, such as data protection officers, impact assessments, and so on.
  • Potentially introducing some kind of fee structure for subject access requests.
  • Organisations to put in place a ‘complaints procedure’ that data subjects must use before complaining to the ICO about data breaches.
  • Reforming privacy and electronic communications regulations (this has been long-awaited and will be interesting to see how they deal with Cookies, as mentioned in our blog earlier this month).
  • Reviewing the UK approach to the international transfer of data and who we consider having ‘adequate’ data protection frameworks in place and how the data transfer approval mechanisms and procedures operate to make it more ‘proportionate, flexible and interoperable.’

We also need to be mindful that if the changes stray too far from the EU GDPR, will they still consider our data protection safeguards adequate enough to allow the free flow of data between the two states?

In a directly related matter on September 7th and 8th, the UK ICO chaired a meeting between the data protection and privacy authorities from G7 countries, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the World Economic Forum (WEF). This was to discuss the emerging challenges facing the world in terms of global data flows which will need closer international collaboration to deal with privacy threats.

Countries across the world, while having different levels of maturity in data protection matters, are starting to align legislation to protect the rights of individuals better.

Within the UK, it is ultimately the Department for Digital Culture, Media & Sport who has the ambition to make the UK the world’s most attractive data marketplace’, but they need to collaborate with international partners to protect both UK and international citizens.

We watch this space with interest.

If you would like to have your say on the consultation, the link to the Consultation Document can be found here, or if you have any questions or concerns at this stage, please do take advantage of our 30-minute complimentary consultation call.

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