The Queen’s speech confirmed the government’s intention to introduce a data reform bill, but some in the technology sector are concerned about the impact of the UK’s potential deviation from European data protection standards.

Delivered by Prince Charles on May 10 The queen’s speech clarified the government’s intention to reform the data protection regime in the United Kingdom by introducing legislation the government’s explanatory noteswill “take advantage of Brexit to create a world-class data rights regime”.

It says the bill “will allow us to create a new, growth-friendly and credible data protection framework in the UK that reduces the burden on business, boosts the economy, helps scientists innovate and improves people’s lives in the UK.” the kingdom ”.

The Government stated that the United Kingdom’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the 2018 Data Protection Act are “highly complex and prescriptive pieces of legislation” that encourage over-documentation and create burdens for businesses with little benefit to citizens. “

It says the new bill will: ultimately increase the competitiveness and efficiency of businesses in the UK; ensure that data is used to empower citizens and improve their lives; creating a clearer regulatory environment; provide people with greater clarity about their data rights; and “cements the UK’s position as a scientific and technological superpower.”

The bill also aims to modernize the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO) and increase industry involvement in “smart data schemes” designed to give citizens and small businesses more control over their data.

Despite the government’s commitment to creating a “first-class data rights regime” with stricter enforcement, some are still concerned about the UK’s direction of travel when it comes to privacy and data protection standards.

Mahlet Zimeta, head of public policy at the Open Data Institute, for example, said the data reform bill was a “fork in the road” for the UK’s digital economy. “A data bill that is just a fire of regulation would be a missed opportunity,” she said. “The government must build on existing data protection laws and lead the world with a data-driven data management regime.

Zimeta added that while “ministers may be tempted to think that cutting data bureaucracy will support small businesses and help the UK become a scientific superpower”, there is a risk that this will backfire. account to weaken the data economy in the United Kingdom in the long term “if public confidence is affected or economic growth from data use is not sustainable, inclusive and equitable”.

Eleonor Duhs, partner and head of personal protection at Bates Wells, said that while the reforms are likely to lead to significant savings for businesses, other changes will remove the protections people have enjoyed under the data from decades.

Many of the potential changes identified by Duhs have been outlined in a consultation on proposed changes to the data landscape in the United Kingdom, which will start on 9 September 2021.

Right of Data: a new directionThe proposals proposed removing the requirements of DPOs, ending the need for mandatory data protection impact assessments (DPIAs) and introducing a “charging regime” for access requests (SARs). .

In June 2021, the Government Working Group on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR) published a report recommending the abolition of protections under Article 22 of the UK GDPR, which give people “the right not to be subject to a decision based solely on of automated processing, including profiling ”.

Although the government has not yet formally responded to the consultation, it noted that the TIGRR proposal was being actively considered and that such a change would remove the right not to be subject to a decision resulting from “highly automated” processing if that decision had legal or “” Similarly significant “effects on data subjects”, adding: “This would mean that only automated decision-making on personal data will be allowed”.

But Duhs said: “Denying people the right to reconsider decisions made by computers is controversial, and the negative impact on people can be dramatic.

“Computer algorithms often have built-in biases, and eliminating people from the equation can lead to discrimination against people, which in turn can lead to litigation.

These changes could also affect the use of workplace surveillance algorithms and technologies, with unions in the UK warning of the dangers of untested deployment of technology by employers in recent months.

In March 2022, for example, the Congress of Trade Unions (TUC) said that the intrusive and growing use of workplace surveillance technology “Goes out of control” and can lead to widespread discrimination, intensification of work and unfair treatment without stricter regulation to protect workers.

“Employers delegate serious solutions to algorithms – such as recruitment, promotions and sometimes even layoffs,” said then-TUC Secretary General Francis O’Grady. “Workers must be properly consulted on the use of AI and protected from criminal penalties.

The Prospect union also calls for collective bargaining on how technology is implemented in the workplace, even publishing guidelines to help workers negotiate with employers in February 2022.

In response to the announcement of the Data Reform Bill, Prospect Research Director Andrew Pakes said: “Data protection is more important than ever with the growth of surveillance software both in the workplace and in our communities. We need to ensure that the UK builds world-class data rights instead of competing for privacy and standards.

“The government needs to be clear that the Data Bill will not reject data rights or be a green light for businesses that they can ignore human oversight of how our data is used at work.

Jonathan MacDonald, a partner at the international law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, added: “We will not have a clear picture of the proposed reforms until the government has officially responded to the consultation it opened in September.

“There is, of course, huge speculation about what can and should lead to this. End of cookie banners? Greater emphasis on curbing spam emails and phone calls, which, as the ICO said in its response to the September consultation, still generate more complaints than anything else; or, alternatively, something more fundamental in general?

“And if we have something more fundamental, how will this affect data flows between the United Kingdom and Europe?” This remains an ever-evolving space. “

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