Greetings from Brussels!
With the exponential growth of the digital landscape and resulting economic and social impact, governments and consumer protection groups have been calling for stronger unified regulation to deliver on more transparent frameworks and safer business models to ensure a more equitable online experience for citizens and consumers alike. To tackle the contemporary issues brought about by digitalization, the U.K. regulatory community has taken some steps to address the situation. The U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office recently reported that the newly formed “Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum” has published its priorities for the coming year.
The DRCF formed in July 2020 by the ICO, the Competition & Markets Authority, and the Office of Communications. It is a non-statutory voluntary network that neither has legal decision-making responsibility nor is its mission to provide formal advice. The work plan is essentially a road map for how U.K. regulators will work together to ensure a greater level of coordination across digital regulatory frameworks. This will involve pooling respective expertise and resources on regulatory matters of mutual importance and reporting on results annually. In addition to the three founding authorities, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority will join as a full member in April of this year, having been an observer member up until now.
There have been several new U.K. policy developments that give purpose to the forum. The most significant will be the U.K. government’s launch of the national data strategy this year, which covers regulatory policy. More recently in 2020 Ofcom received new powers to regulate video sharing platforms and enforce the U.K.’s new online harms framework. In 2021, the government will also seek to resource within the CMA a Digital Markets Unit to oversee a revised and pro-competition program. The ICO’s new Age Appropriate Design Code will also become effective in September.
With these initiatives in mind, the priorities for the DRCF are threefold in nature. A strategic response to the industry is top of mind, and joint strategic projects will target common areas, such as services design, encryption, algorithmic processing of data and advertising technology. Secondly, where independent regulations overlap, aligned regulatory response and outcomes will also be facilitated and addressed by the forum. And lastly, capacity building, expertise and knowledge sharing will be instrumental with an emphasis on areas such as AI and data analysis. The DRCF also aims to promote international engagement with regulatory bodies to share information and best practice in respect of approaches to regulating digital markets.
Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in working closely with the CMA and Ofcom, they would be looking to identify practical solutions to address the challenges from an increasingly digital world. She added the cooperation would drive better outcomes for businesses and individuals and, by extension, protect the digital ecosystem, safeguarding trust and confidence in innovation.
On a final note, I would like to draw your attention to the U.K. Data Marketing Association “Data 2021” online event that will be held 25 March. Fittingly, there will be speakers from the ICO and DCMS speaking to the latest regulatory compliance and guidance. The one-day event will also include a number of presentations and roundtables on how to work responsibly with data and AI, the future of customer data, and codes of conduct. In partnership with the Data Marketing Association, IAPP members can attend the event at the DMA member rate. For more information on the event, speakers and registration, please see here.
I will be attending and look forward to hearing more on how the U.K. is shaping up for enhanced digitalization and what kind of evolutionary change we can expect from a data protection perspective.
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