New UK Prime Minister provides an opportunity for fresh perspectives

Liz Truss as new UK Prime Minister, and a change of government ministers, will provide an opportunity to plan ahead on many policy areas with a fresh perspective. There were few questions on privacy law issues during the recent 12 hustings sessions around the UK. The two candidates for the role of leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore, Prime Minister, mainly took questions about their other plans for government.

This absence of such questions can be interpreted as lack of public interest or more likely, other issues, in particular energy prices and the cost of living, taking higher priority.

The advantage is that the new PM did not have to make commitments, leaving the work on the current data protection bill to continue without needing to incorporate hastily made promises from the person who now takes on the role of head of government. Nor have the Opposition parties made public statements on the Bill which is scheduled to continue its Parliamentary stages this month. All these factors mean that discussion on the Bill can be conducted on grounds of principle and professional assessment without an overlay of party-political conflict.

The title of the current Bill, The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill shows a broadening of the data protection law concept from its normal focus on personal data to a wider scope covering other types of digital information. But a data protection law cannot do everything.

The pursuit of a UK data policy, independent of the European Union, may well sweep too many issues under the data protection law umbrella. Traditional data protection laws in the past 50 years have had their clear focus on rights for individuals and duties for organisations processing personal data. The scope of these laws has quite rightly expanded in recent years to take into account threats to the integrity of personal data via the Internet leading to online harms to individuals.

Probably far from the minds of the MPs reviewing the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill are the practical steps forward which have already been taken on international cooperation on cross-border regulatory sandboxes included in some international trade agreements.

The government, making a praiseworthy effort to stimulate innovation, is expanding the scope and interpretation of its draft data protection law. For example, the Bill covers a widened concept of scientific research, a revision of coverage of automated decision-making and wisely, in my opinion, not trying to tackle Artificial Intelligence in this Bill. Instead, policy thinking on Artificial Intelligence and data management is being led by the DCMS’s Office for Artificial Intelligence, the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF), with the ICO providing input, and informed by the Alan Turing Institute.

Much will depend on how the Bill is expected to work in practice guided by the fairly new top team at the ICO.

We share with you in this edition the results of our successful Memo to the Minister Roundtable in cooperation with law firm Norton Rose Fulbright. Our resulting minutes and Memo are now a constructive part of the DCMS’s policy-making process.

Roundtable on the Bill’s coverage of International data transfers

To continue this substantive work on the Bill, Privacy Laws & Business has organised on 3 October a second Memo to the Minister Roundtable, this time focused on international data transfers. The programme includes a full briefing from the DCMS team and an opportunity to put detailed questions to them.

We will also have a separate afternoon session, without the DCMS and ICO participants, for a confidential exchange of experience on how companies and their advisors choose the legal basis for different data transfers. We look forward to meeting you there.

We will announce more events, both webinars and in-person events, in the coming months and welcome your ideas for them and for articles in future editions of PL&B UK Report.

Best regards,

Stewart Dresner

Publisher, Privacy Laws & Business

September 2022

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September 2022 Report Contents