‘In limbo’ industry demands full details of data reforms

dma 1The DMA is demanding the urgent publication of the Government’s planned reforms of data protection laws, claiming the data-driven marketing industry is “in limbo” due to the uncertainty over what will be included.

The shake-up, confirmed in this week’s Queen Speech, centres around ministers’ claims that GDPR – or UK GDPR as it is now known following Brexit – is too complex and burdensome for small businesses.

The consultation, “Data: A new direction”, was launched last August and includes structural changes to the ICO, a fresh clampdown on nuisance calls, an overhaul of the so-called cookie law, a relaxation of accountability measures and cutting so-called “red tape”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, privacy organisations slammed the proposals, with the Open Rights Group claiming the reforms will lead to a “bonfire of privacy rights”, creating a jungle where big tech and rogue businesses will be free to harass everyone in the name of growth and innovation. Charity and public sector organisations have also urged the Government to be more cautious about its plans.

New Information Commissioner John Edwards has asserted that many of the claims about privacy rights being abandoned are “bullshit”.

And the DMA has welcomed the overall inclusion of reform to UK data protection laws, although following industry roundtables and consultation responses published in October 2021, marketing industry is still uncertain on what changes will be adopted.

DMA chief executive Chris Combemale is calling for urgent clarity from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) on what text the data reform bill will contain.

He said: “The data, marketing and creative industries remain in limbo, unsure of what form the UK’s data protection reforms will take.

“Data-driven innovation can still deliver further growth across the digital economy, without compromising the UK’s data adequacy status or current privacy protections, but the Government must move forward urgently and publish the results of the ‘Data: A new direction’ consultation and the text of the legislative reforms.”

“Our industry welcomed many of the proposals put forward in the consultation that have a direct impact on building successful customer relationships and public trust, primarily through further legislative clarity and industry transparency.”

Overall, the DMA agrees that there is a lot of untapped value in data being held in the private and public sectors that if unlocked could have a transformative impact on the UK’s economy and society. Moreover, UK citizens will benefit from better use of personal data, which will deliver a stronger economy, more efficient and effective public services, and greater innovation in science and technology.

Rafi Azim-Khan, head of data privacy at law firm Pillsbury, warns against a large departure from EU law, which could risk the UK’s data adequacy ruling from the EU.

He told The Independent: “This isn’t a bolt from the blue by any means. I think there will still be quite a bit of nervousness from businesses in the weeks ahead. Any significant departure from the GDPR would not only mean renewed compliance efforts, but also potentially risk the UK’s EU data adequacy ruling.

“I’d imagine we’d see more of a pruning than root and branch reform, but hopefully we’re not left waiting too long to find out.”

The Open Data Institute has also cautioned against a radical overhaul. Vice-president and chief strategy adviser Jane Tennison recently wrote: “The competitive advantage for the UK is rooted in high standards, trustworthiness and an ethical environment where laws are enforced and data and algorithms audited. That is where we can and should be competing.

“A race to the bottom is just that, with the subsequent reputational damage it brings, along with the loss of responsible tech firms, emerging digital industries and international influence. Let’s aim for the gold standard, not a tarnished bronze.”

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