Insights Government launches consultation on reforms to the UK’s data protection regime

The Government says that it wants to improve the UK’s data protection regime to make it even more ambitious and innovation-friendly while still being underpinned by secure and trustworthy privacy standards. It believes improved data sharing can help deliver more agile, effective and efficient public services and help make the UK a science and technology superpower.

The Government has launched a consultation on reforms to create “an ambitious, pro-growth and innovation-friendly data protection regime that underpins the trustworthy use of data”.

The Government says that unlocking the power of data is one of its 10 Tech Priorities. As set out in the National Data Strategy, data is a strategic asset, it says, and its responsible use should be seen as a “huge opportunity to embrace”. The consultation is the first step in delivering on Mission 2 of the National Data Strategy to secure a “pro-growth and trusted data regime”.

The Government says that outside the EU the UK can reshape its approach to regulation and seize opportunities with its new regulatory freedoms, helping to drive growth, innovation and competition across the country. “The UK needs agile and adaptable data protection laws that enhance its global reputation as a hub for responsible data-driven business that respects high standards of data protection”, it says.

The consultation presents proposals that build on the key elements of the current UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR), such as its data processing principles, its data rights for citizens, and its mechanisms for supervision and enforcement. The proposals aim to deliver an even better data protection regime that will:

  • support vibrant competition and innovation to drive economic growth;
  • maintain high data protection standards without creating unnecessary barriers to responsible data use;
  • keep pace with the rapid innovation of data-intensive technologies;
  • help innovative businesses of all sizes to use data responsibly without undue uncertainty or risk, both in the UK and internationally; and
  • ensure the Information Commissioner’s Office is equipped to regulate effectively in an increasingly data-driven world.

Under the Government’s proposals, the ICO is set for an overhaul. A new governance model is planned for the ICO, including an independent board and chief executive to mirror the governance structures of other regulators such as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Ofcom. This follows the selection of John Edwards as the Government’s preferred candidate as the new Information Commissioner, who is currently serving as the New Zealand Privacy Commissioner (see item above).

The Government says it is keen to hear from as broad a set of respondents as possible. The deadline for responding to the consultation is 19 November 2021. To access the consultation, click here. To read the Government’s press release, click here.