Unilever and Google have backed calls to keep the UK Information Commissioner’s Office at the top table of EU data protection regulation by joining forces with 25 other companies and industry associations to sign an open letter to Brussels chiefs to ensure they secure a “new and positive relationship” between the EU and UK post-Brexit.
The letter, which has been signed by UK marketing bodies the DMA, IPA, ISBA, IAB, as well as trade associations from Germany, Italy, Austria, France, Portugal, Poland and Sweden, calls on the European Commission to recognise the UK’s deep alignment with the EU on data protection policy.
Central to this relationship should be an agreement for the ICO to continue to participate fully in the European Data Protection Board, it states.
It adds: “The UK will be in a unique position upon Brexit because the GDPR will be applicable in the UK from 25 May 2018. It will be a positive step forward to capitalise on this in order to ensure minimal disruption for consumers and businesses operating across EU borders.
“Advertising and marketing are at the heart of the European economy and play a vital role in driving economic growth. Research shows that every €1 invested in advertising generates €7 to EU GDP, meaning that the €92 billion spent on advertising in 2014 is estimated to have contributed €643bn to GDP, representing 4.6% of overall EU GDP.”
The missive goes on to argue that the transfer and use of user data is an essential element in cross-border trade in every sector, quoting the Commission’s own figures which show that the data economy was worth almost €300bn in 2016 and has a projected value of €739bn by 2020.
It concludes: “Striking such a deal would be vital for the European economy, and in particular for the thousands of businesses that thrive and rely on being able to exchange personal data freely across EU borders.”
The UK Government is already pressing the Commission to ensure the ICO retains a senior role, following a recommendation from the House of Lords EU Home Affairs sub-committee inquiry into the implications of Brexit on the UK’s data protection laws.
In evidence to the committee, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said there was a risk that the UK could find itself “outside, pressing our faces on the glass…without influence”.
She urged the Government to “do anything they can” to ensure that the ICO had “some status, be it observer status” or something similar. “Failure to achieve this would be frustrating for citizens and for Government,” she said.
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