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New direction data protection reform

The UK government launched its consultation on reforms to the UK’s data protection laws. The consultation paper, titled ‘Data: a new direction’, runs to 146 pages, including some significant proposals. The data protection rules have seen plenty of changes. In 2018 May, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation came into effect. They have had the impact of Brexit. Ministers have been talking up changes and this has caused alarm among campaigners and privacy activist.

The proposals contained in the consultation are not as radical as either the government or its most vociferous critics. There is to be no great bonfire of data protection law, with most of the basics staying firmly in place. The data protection principles, the lawful bases for processing, the individual rights and the enforcement regime also includes in this. The changes are such as the accountability, innovation and individual rights, cookies and direct marketing, international data transfer as well as changes of the regulators.

In these the most important changes are reserved for accountability, which include removing the requirements for organisations, undertake data protection impact assessments and maintain records of processing activities. There are some technical changes that would make it easier for personal data to be used for research purposes. The AI technology continues to develop and it is right that the government takes an approach to reforms in this area.

Ministerial comments on cookie consents are no surprise that the government intends to make amendments. There is certainly an appetite for reform to cookie compliance rules. The consultation also includes a long-overdue proposal to bring penalties under the Regulations into line with the UK GDPR. The international transfers, are in the consultation. There were many talks about increasing the number of countries that the UK assesses, to allow more international data transfers without restriction. The government intends to explore additional alternative transfer methods, for use where there are no adequacy regulations in place. At the end, the consultation contains changes to how the Information Commissioner’s Office is run and managed. The proposals envisage that the ICO will be led by an independent board and a CEO. The thoughts of John Edwards on these proposals were important to know. The consultation will run until 19 November 2021.

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