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Data reform consultation launched

The government is proposing to reform the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in order to better protect the public from major data threats.

Part of the government's proposed changes to the UK’s data landscape involves a new governance model for the ICO, including an independent board and chief executive to mirror the governance structures of other regulators such as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Ofcom.

Having left the EU, the government wants to create a pro-growth and trusted data regime that unleashes data’s power across the economy and society, for the benefit of British citizens and British businesses.

According to the government, the reforms outlined in this consultation will:

  • Cement the UK’s position as a ‘science superpower’, simplifying data use by researchers and developers of AI and other cutting edge technologies.

  • Build on the unprecedented and life-saving use of data to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Secure the UK’s status as a global hub for the free and responsible flow of personal data - complementing our ambitious agenda for new trade deals and data partnerships with some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

  • Reinforce the responsibility of businesses to keep personal information safe, while empowering them to grow and innovate.

  • Ensure that the ICO remains a world-leading regulator, enabling people to use data responsibly to achieve economic and social goals.

The consultation sets out plans to impose tougher penalties and fines for nuisance calls and text messages. These sanctions would be overseen by the ICO and build on government action in recent years that has included holding individual directors liable for nuisance calls made by their respective companies.

The proposals are built on key elements of the current UK data protection regime (General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018), such as principles around data processing, people’s data rights and mechanisms for supervision and enforcement.

However, the government says it recognises that the current regime places disproportionate burdens on many organisations. The reforms move away from the “one-size-fits-all” approach and allow organisations to demonstrate compliance in ways more appropriate to their circumstances, while still protecting citizens’ personal data to a high standard.

The consultation period ends on 19 November 2021; click here for the document.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport September 2021

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