On 10 May 2022, the UK Government announced via the Queen’s Speech that the UK’s data protection regime will be reformed with a new “Data Reform Bill”. This Data Reform Bill is part of a series of legislative proposals intended to take advantage of the benefits of Brexit.
The information provided in the announcement of the Data Reform Bill reflects the themes set out in the consultation by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (“Data: a new direction”), published in September 2021 (“DCMS Consultation”). The DCMS consultation closed in November 2021, and included various proposals regarding reforms to data protection laws in the UK. One of the key themes in the consultation was an intention to reduce perceived burdens on UK organisations by removing or amending certain requirements under the UK GDPR and UK Data Protection Act 2018 (for more information on the proposed changes, please in our summary here).
This theme is echoed in the UK Government’s announcement of the Data Reform Bill, which states that the Bill is intended to increase competitiveness and efficiency for UK businesses by “reducing the burdens they face, for example by creating a data protection framework that is focused on privacy outcomes rather than box-ticking”. The announcement asserts that the UK GDPR and UK Data Protection Act 2018 “encourage excessive paperwork, and create burdens on businesses with little benefit to citizens” and the Data Reform Bill will “reduce burdens on businesses as well as provide clarity to researchers on how best to use personal data”. While there is a focus on reducing perceived administrative burdens on organisations, it is also clear the UK Government intends that the standard of protection of personal data is not diminished and that “UK citizen’s personal data is protected to a gold standard”.
The announcement also sets out the UK Government’s aims that by taking advantage of the benefits of Brexit, it will create a “world class data rights regime” which allows creation of “a new pro-growth and trusted UK data protection framework” to boost the economy, “help scientists to innovate and improves the lives of people in the UK”. There are also proposals to modernise the Information Commissioner’s Office, create a “clearer regulatory environment for personal data use that will fuel responsible innovation and drive scientific progress” and “simplify the rules around research to cement the UK’s position as a science and technology superpower”.
It is clear from this announcement that the UK Government is pushing ahead with its intention of post-Brexit data protection reforms. However, at this stage the Data Reform Bill, and the outcome of the DCMS Consultation, have not yet been published. Therefore, the exact details of these proposed reforms are yet to be seen. It is expected that the outcome of the DCMS Consultation will be published over the coming weeks, with the Data Reform Bill following in the summer.
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.