Govt claims business will save £1bn from new data laws

parliament_2The Government is ratcheting up claims about how its data protection reforms will benefit business – and consumers – by insisting firms will save up to £1bn from the new legislation, while consumers will be better protected from the scourge of nuisance callers.

Just four weeks after announcing plans for the Data Reform Bill, the Government has now changed the name to the Data Protection & Digital Information Bill, and kicked off its passage through Parliament with the “first reading”.

The move, which Minister for Media, Data & Digital Infrastructure Matt Warman insisted will “reduce the burdens on businesses”, finally scotches claims that the Bill was facing delays due to the Conservative Party leadership contest. Warman insists the Bill will deliver huge savings for firms, although, as ever, exact details of how these will be achieved are not revealed.

The first reading coincides with the Government also unveiling a set of proposals to regulate the use of artificial intelligence; a move that will be supported by a six-week consultation.

For those looking for a summer read, the 419-page, 71,567-word Data Protection & Digital Information Bill document is available from the Parliament website. Most of the proposals have already been published, however.

Warman said: “Our Bill will improve people’s lives in many different ways. Firstly, we are increasing fines for nuisance calls and texts that break the rules. Telecoms network providers will also be required to notify the ICO when they have reasonable grounds for believing that unsolicited direct marketing is occurring on their networks.

“Reforms to the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations will also remove the need for cookie banner pop ups for low risk activities, such as audience measurement, so it’s easier for businesses to use information to improve their services. The Bill will also pave the way for the removal of irritating banners for other types of cookies when browser-based or similar solutions are sufficiently developed.

“The Bill will bring some everyday physical processes into the 21st century. It will be easier and more secure to use digital identities, which give people more choice and greater security when they want to prove things about themselves online or via apps instead of with physical documents. We will improve government data sharing to improve public services for businesses, and the Bill will also update the way births and deaths are registered by clerks, moving from a paper based system to an electronic register used by officials.

“Our reforms to data protection laws will mean that UK scientists are no longer needlessly impeded by overcautious, unclear rules on how they can use people’s personal data. We will simplify the legal requirements around research, which will provide scientists the clarity and confidence they need to get on with life enhancing and life saving research.”

A date for the second reading has yet to be set.

Meanwhile, although the Bill includes a section on automated decision-making, ministers are also proposing a second set of rules and regulations for AI and machine learning.

A host of regulators – including Ofcom, the CMA, the ICO, the Financial Conduct Authority, and the Medicine & Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority – will implement the principles.

The regulators “will be encouraged to consider lighter touch options”, including regulatory sandboxes and guidance. The proposal features six core principles: ensure AI is used safely, that it is technically secure as designed, transparent and explainable, considers fairness, identifies “a legal person to be responsible for AI,” and clarifies avenues for redress.

Digital Minister Damian Collins said: “It is vital that our rules offer clarity to businesses, confidence to investors and boost public trust. Our flexible approach will help us shape the future of AI and cement our global position as a science and tech superpower.”

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