Outline of three people with computers in a data centre

UK Government to reform data protection legislation

Image credit: Foto 164673298 © Denisismagilov | Dreamstime.com

The new Data Reform Bill announced during the Queen's Speech is intended to allow the UK to deviate from EU privacy legislation.

The UK Government has revealed its plans to introduce a new Data Reform Bill, which will differ from the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act, described by the Government as “highly complex." 

The announcement was made during the Queen’s Speech at the Opening of Parliament, in which Prince Charles stood in for Queen Elizabeth, who decided not to attend for health reasons.

“The United Kingdom’s data protection regime will be reformed,” Prince Charles announced.

According to the Government, the bill will streamline data-protection laws and cut red tape, reducing the burden on businesses by creating a more flexible, outcomes-focused approach “rather than box-ticking exercises” while also introducing clearer rules around personal data use. This is seen as an improvement to current legislation, which is said to encourage “excessive paperwork.” 

Industry representatives have expressed concerns that, if done improperly, the Bill could ultimately cost the economy more than it will deliver. If the UK were to depart from the EU standards too greatly, it could lose its "data adequacy status" meaning businesses will face higher compliance costs when receiving data from the bloc.

“I think there will still be quite a bit of nervousness from businesses in the weeks ahead," said Rafi Azim-Khan, head of data privacy at law firm Pillsbury. “I’d imagine we’d see more of a pruning than root and branch reform, but hopefully we’re not left waiting too long to find out.”

Full details of the proposals have not yet been published. However, it has been reported that, as part of the reforms, the web cookie consent banners that appear when visiting a website could be scrapped. The proposals also include plans to modernise the Information Commissioner’s Office, the UK’s data watchdog, to make sure it has the capabilities and powers to take stronger action against organisations that breach data rules.

The Government said the changes would help increase the competitiveness of UK businesses and boost the economy.

The announcement comes as the Conservative Party wants to claim to have delivered a 'Brexit dividend' ahead of the next general election, alongside an urgent need to raise GDP to address economic issues, two issues that are seen to be critical to the UK’s economy, which currently a faces a possible rise in inflation to 10.25 per cent by the end of this year.

The draft bill, which is one part of a wider package of data-protection reforms, will likely be published in the summer.

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