Last-ditch call for next Govt to resurrect data reforms

westminster-new-2The DMA has joined forces with a number of industry and business groups to launch an 11th-hour appeal for the next Government to commit to new data protection legislation to ensure the UK can “achieve global leadership in trusted and responsible data-driven innovation and artificial intelligence”.

With just hours to go until the polls open, the organisation has teamed up with TechUK, the Advertising Association and the Centre for Information Policy Leadership – who were all members of the Business Advisory Group that helped develop the now defunct Data Protection & Digital Information Bill – to write an open letter in which they appeal for a new Government to pass a similar piece of legislation “in haste”.

The DPDI Bill first emerged in 2021, but was still going through the committee stage in the House of Lords when the election was called. However, most industry observers recognise it was the Government’s own decision to pile in 240 amendments on the third reading in the House of Commons in November last year which led to huge delays and ultimately the Bill’s downfall.

Although many elements of the Bill would have benefitted the marketing industry, including bigger fines for rogue telemarketers, a soft-opt in for charity emails, relaxing the online cookies law and a potential relaxation of “legitimate interests”, other areas proved more controversial.  The shake-up of the Information Commissioner’s Office was a particular bone of contention, as were greater Government snooping powers and watered down consumer data rights, including making it harder to file subject access requests.

Even so, the DMA argues that the DPDI Bill was a “well-crafted piece of legislation with broad support from all parties”.

The open letter, sent to the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats, states: “We are writing as leading business associations, industry leaders and experts to call the next Government to seize the opportunity to modernise the UK’s data protection framework.

“A progressive and innovation-friendly regulatory environment that maintains strong privacy protection standards while delivering digital trust and legal certainty, will encourage economic growth, more innovative and effective public services, the easier use of data for research and public good, and greater flexibility in a more complex global environment for data transfers.

“This will in turn support the UK’s ambition to achieve global leadership in trusted and responsible data-driven innovation and artificial intelligence.

“Building on the momentum to reform the UK’s data regulatory framework is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the government’s recognition of the importance of a regulatory environment that supports responsible innovation. This will give businesses the confidence to invest in the UK, positioning the country ahead of other jurisdictions.”

The letter goes on to call for a number of key policy changes, including providing legal certainty around the use of legitimate interests for processing data; removing consent requirement for non-intrusive cookies; updating the law to cover artificial intelligence; snd support the modernisation of the ICO.

It concludes: “The general election presents an opportunity for all the UK’s political parties to recommit to modern data policies and ensure that as we seek to grow the economy and reform public services, the UK can fully leverage the power of data-driven and digital technologies.”

In a statement, the DMA said: “As we head into a fresh parliament, we will be working hard to ensure voices of members and the industry are heard by Government. As always, we welcome views and input of members.”

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