Work on the proposed U.K. Data Protection and Digital Information Bill is about to gain steam once again. U.K. Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Deputy Director for Domestic Data Protection Policy Owen Rowland told privacy professionals at the IAPP Data Protection Congress 2022 in Brussels, Belgium, that the latest consultation on the stalled bill will begin shortly.
The bill previously laid dormant since its introduction to the U.K. House of Commons in July prior to the government's summer recess. Upon lawmakers' return from recess and with the first of two new prime minister appointments, the bill was removed from the House of Commons' second reading calendar as new leaders at DCMS sought to reconsider the structure of the framework.
Rowland confirmed the upcoming consultation will not be a full-blown public consultation, equivalent to the prior 10-week public comment period prior to introduction that drew nearly 3,000 comments.
"It's important to clarify (the type of consultation). However, we are genuinely interested in continuing to engage with the whole range of stakeholders. Different business sectors as well as privacy and consumer groups," Rowland said. "We'll be providing details in the next couple of weeks in terms of the opportunities that we are going to particularly set up."
In its current form, the proposed DPDI was broken into sections for data protection, digital verification services, customer data and business data, other provisions about digital information, regulation and oversight and final provisions. Some of the proposed changes to the existing regime under the U.K. General Data Protection Regulation include easing rules around cookie banners and use of personal information for scientific research and reforms around the general function of the U.K. Information Commissioner's Office.
The bill may not receive a deep overhaul, but Rowland said he welcomes comments that potentially raise "amendments to (the existing proposal's) text that we should make." He added the consultation is being launched to avoid "a real risk" of missing important points and to provide "opportunities were not fully utilizing" to gain stakeholder insights.
"I think consultation is the way forward," Bates Wells Partner and Head of Data Privacy Eleonor Duhs said while taking part in the DPC breakout session with Rowland and IBM AI Ethics Client Engagement Lead John Bowman, CIPP/E, CIPM, FIP. "What's missing is the consultation approach. … If you want to bring forward new legislation, you set out the details so people know what the policy is going to be and comment. That's the democratic process we aspire to."
Speaking on his own behalf, Bowman said he is hopeful DCMS will dig deeper into "interoperability and interaction with the wider world" in the context of adequacy decisions and data flows while also thinking of U.K. interests.
"From a domestic point of view, the government should seek to create an environment where it's attractive for businesses to invest in the digital economy. But they absolutely need to obtain the trust of the consumer and general public as well," Bowman said. "I think the key is to provide this balanced regulatory and legislative agenda that satisfies all the demands."
The consultation could also provide a clearer picture for the future of EU-U.K. adequacy. A recent Politico report indicated members of European Parliament were put off by recent discussions with the DCMS, and U.K. officials invested in data reform as it relates to continued alignment with the EU General Data Protection Regulation.
During the breakout session, Bowman raised comments European Data Protection Supervisor Wojciech Wiewiórowski made in July, regarding his concerns for maintaining the current adequacy agreement finalized between the EU and the U.K. in June 2021 following Brexit.
Wiewiórowski, speaking at a separate DPC session, maintained his prior sentiments regarding perceived issues. He noted "great interest to what is going on in the U.K." while broadly mentioning "differences" that have been raised during his office's analysis.
Rowland reiterated "championing the international flow of data" remains a key mission for DCMS in data protection reform. He was mum regarding the state of EU-U.K. adequacy besides noting the U.K. is "continuing its work with priority partners," including the EU among others.
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