Critics round on overhaul of data law; Daily Mail rejoices

gdpr2Just hours after revealing it wanted to overhaul UK data laws, the Government is already facing a backlash from both data protection experts and the EU, with Brussels even warning it will “immediately” revoke its data adequacy deal if the new rules are found to pose a threat to EU citizens’ privacy.

Yesterday, the Government outlined plans for the biggest shake up of UK data protection for decades, paving the way for new laws based on “common sense” as well as a major expansion of international data transfer agreements.

Exact details are still thin on the ground but in an interview with the Daily Telegraph – only available to paid subscribers – Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden suggested that one of the measures would be to scrap what he branded “endless” cookie banners many of which are “pointless”.

This drew a swift response from data protection experts that cookies fall under the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), not GDPR, suggesting Dowden was clueless.

Open Rights Group policy manager Heather Burns tweeted: “That’s great up to the point that everyone recalls that banners aren’t GDPR at all, and that the rightful hatred of those banners under a completely separate law is being used as leverage to scrap your basic rights over the collection, use, and sale of your personal data in GDPR.”

Meanwhile, GRC World Forums analyst and research director Robert Bateman wrote: “It’s somewhat irresponsible to imply that the GDPR is the sole cause of cookie banner hell. But, in theory, you could get rid of banners by amending GDPR’s consent provisions. Double but, to implement a two-tier approach as the government proposes, you’d need to amend the PECRs.”

Mishcon de Reya data protection partner Adam Rose said:”Squaring the circle of giving citizens and consumers more control over how their data is used, while also giving business and government greater freedoms to use that data, will be the big challenge.

“Coming just a couple of months after the EU Commission granted the UK an adequacy decision in relation to its post-Brexit data protection regime – on the basis that the UK law was essentially equivalent to the EU GDPR regime – today’s announcements put the UK on a collision path with the EU, but also more widely with civil society organisations, with the likelihood of serious domestic data litigation in the future.”

No sooner had he warned that than the FT quoted an EU spokesperson, who said Brussels was monitoring the UK’s decision “very closely”, adding that “in [a] case of justified urgency” that threatened its citizens, it would “immediately” revoke its data-sharing arrangement with the UK.

The Daily Mail, meanwhile, claims Brits are “rejoicing” at the news. It quoted one Twitter user who said: “Nice to see common sense reversing the silly EU cookie law which has only made the web a more frustrating experience for all and scaring those that don’t know how cookies work.”

Others, the Mail reported, were quick to point to the finger at “frustrating” and “annoying” online pop-ups and revealed they were looking forward to the changes. Another said: “Cookie permission pop ups are 50% of the reason why I voted to leave the EU.”

But Rebecca Godar, director of Policy Intelligence, concluded: “This isn’t about not having to click accept cookies on a website. This is about taking your data without your consent and using it to profit someone you almost certainly don’t approve of. Don’t be fooled.”

Marketing industry bodies, including the DMA, ISBA, IPA and the Advertising Association, have yet to comment on the plans.

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