MPs join fight over ‘lax’ data rules in Japan trade deal

uk japanMPs have waded into the row over the trade deal between the UK and Japan – hailed as historic by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss – condemning the Government for refusing to explain the data protection risks to British consumers.

The concerns, first raised by the Open Rights Group (ORG), have been taken up by a cross-parry group of 16 MPs who have co-signed a letter to Truss, highlighting the deal’s implications the future of data protection standards for data transfers.

The letter states that its is “unacceptable to push forward clauses…without a full debate”. It adds: “The Government has claimed that the deal is ambitious and promotes the ‘free flow’ of data. The deal appears to promote the ‘interoperability’ of different data protection regimes, to recognise a wide variety of standards as potentially acceptable, and to reduce the scope to disallow data flows, where the Government believes these to be problematic.

“The language promoting ‘data flows’ in the agreement echoes that of the Comprehensive & Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which the Government says it wishes to conclude an agreement with. Both the CPTPP and the Japan-UK Agreement appear to promote privately regulated data flows, which may in practice be both lax and hard to enforce.”

The ORG argues that the deal will permit UK data to be transferred to the US, without it being kept under GDPR-style protections. In the US, there is no automatic right to know where the data is held, or by whom; consumers cannot prevent resale, reuse, or the data being put to new uses. There is no right to prevent data from being used in ways that are discriminatory, or unfair.

ORG executive director Jim Killock said: “Our Parliament is sovereign and critical issues such as UK citizens’ right to privacy and control over personal data must not become a bargaining chip in trade negotiations.”

Labour MP for Norwich South Clive Lewis said: “The right to privacy and control over personal data should not be a bargaining chip on the negotiating table. Yet the government has signed up to articles in the Japan trade agreement that places limits on legislation to defend privacy when data is exported.”

Meanwhile former Labour Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott added: “Parliament simply must be told what these articles limiting privacy really mean, and why the government signed them. Privacy and trust are vital in any democracy and economy.”

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