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Government consulting on plans to reform GDPR and ICO

Byte-size Bulletin by Rachael Brown in Security, News on Sep 21, 2021


The UK Government is consulting on plans to revamp the data protection landscape, plans which include reforming the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). 
The consultation will run until the 19th October, and consists of lawyers, businesses, academics and digital rights campaigners among others expressing their views on existing data protection laws and the Government's new proposals.
This is being led by the GOV DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) who is concerned the current regime inhibits businesses from innovating and experimenting with data due to fears of violations. They also argue existing laws limit the use of personal data in meaningful scientific research.
The DCMS argues businesses specifically need more confidence when using data, confidence which can be built up through a lighter-touch enforcement regime, assurances and sufficient buildup of case law.
Such changes would also benefit the government, as reducing barriers to global data flows post-Brexit could lead to trade deals with the US, Australia and South Korea. This consultation will examine if the need to identify lawful grounds for processing personal data in business contexts and scientific research creates barriers to innovation. 
Furthering the argument of the DCMS is the fact the UK GDPR is relatively new as a data regulation regime. The consultation argues there are legal elements of it that lack interpretation as well as case law.
This is not to say the government does not see it as an important regulatory framework. But, you would be forgiven for thinking so considering recent messaging from the UK Government. Like Boris Johnson considering following report proposals that argued GDPR should be completely gutted and indicating a desire to rewrite domestic data protection laws.  
Instead of gutting the GDPR, the government has stated they want to favour “common sense” over “box-ticking” by creating “a pro-growth and trusted data regime”.

What will this new regime look like? Well, one of the first steps may be restructuring the ICO. The government has proposed to restructure ICO to mirror other UK regulators like the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and even OfCom. 

This restructuring would include hiring a new CEO, replacing Elizabeth Denham with John Edwards and appointing an independent board.  

Digital secretary Oliver Dowden, who has long spoken about reforming the role of the information commissioner to fit this vision, put out in a statement that:

 “Now that we have left the EU, we have the freedom to create a new world-leading data regime that unleashes the power of data across the economy and society."

He argues that the reforms likely to result from this GDPR business consultation will "keep people’s data safe and secure while ushering in a new golden age of growth and innovation right across the UK, as we build back better from the pandemic.” 

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

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