The many faces of the Online Safety Bill

In one of our lead stories, we report on some of the discussions at the House of Lords’ Report stage. Many of these topics have been debated before. What has perhaps not gained so much attention is the threat the proposals would pose to end-to-end encryption (PL&B UK Report March 2022). Widely used services such as WhatsApp are recognised for their privacy-friendly end-to-end encryption for users. However, the government argues that messaging systems using end-to-end encryption potentially protect child abusers. As it stands, when the Bill enters into force, Ofcom would have the power to require platforms to scan private communications relating to child sexual abuse material.

The Bill, introduced by Boris Johnson when Prime Minister, is expected to be adopted this spring. According to the Open Rights Group, some providers have said they will withdraw their service from the UK market rather than undermine the security of their products. The Global Encryption Coalition has written to PM Rishi Sunak warning about the consequences of the government’s intentions; “Undermining protections for end-to-end encryption would make UK businesses and individuals less safe online, including the very groups that the Online Safety Bill intends to protect. Furthermore, because the right to privacy and freedom of expression are intertwined, these proposals would undermine freedom of speech.”

Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Cabinet Office was seeking views on its proposal to “support fast, safe, and secure” data-sharing amongst departments to enable access to online governmental services through GOV.UK One Login programme. Digital identification services are needed in modern society.

Enhanced data sharing is also one of the goals of the UK’s new data protection framework in the field of scientific research. The scope of “research” is still to be determined in the wording of the forthcoming Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.

Our other front-page story is about the Experian appeal case. The ICO has said it will consider whether to appeal. The judgment supported only some aspects of the ICO’s decision, leading to the question of whether the ICO properly understood Experian marketing services’ business model and how it operates.

Laura Linkomies
Editor, Privacy Laws & Business

March 2023