Prince Charles, in giving the Queen’s Speech on 11 May 2022, announced the government’s intention to reform UK data protection laws. The purpose of the reforms is to:
- Take advantage of the benefits of Brexit to create a “world class data rights regime” that will allow us to create a new pro-growth and trusted UK data protection framework that reduces burdens on businesses, boosts the economy, helps scientists to innovate and improves the lives of people in the UK.
- Modernise the Information Commissioner’s Office, making sure it has the capabilities and powers to take stronger action against organisations who breach data rules while requiring it to be more accountable to Parliament and the public.
- Increase industry participation in Smart Data Schemes, which will give citizens and small businesses more control of their data. The Bill will also help those who need health care treatments, by helping improve appropriate access to data in health and social care contexts.
The main elements of the Bill are:
- Ensuring that UK citizens’ personal data is protected to a gold standard while enabling public bodies to share data to improve the delivery of services.
- Using data and reforming regulations to improve the everyday lives of people in the UK, for example, by enabling data to be shared more efficiently between public bodies, so that delivery of services can be improved for people.
- Designing a more flexible, outcomes-focused approach to data protection that helps create a culture of data protection, rather than “tick box” exercises.
The government sees the GDPR as a highly complex and prescriptive piece of legislation which encourages excessive paperwork, and creates burdens on businesses with little benefit to citizens. As the UK has now left the EU, the data protection framework can be reformed in order to reduce burdens on businesses.
The contents of the Bill are not yet available and it remains to be seen quite how far these reforms will go. It is one thing (for example) to reduce paperwork, and remove the need for irritating cookie banners (a couple of the potential targets of the Bill), but another to go too far and put at risk the UK’s adequacy ruling that allows the free flow of data from the EU. In the end, the reforms may be helpful but relatively modest.