UK Seeks Benign Bureaucracy with Data Reform Bill

Certain organisations, such as small businesses, won’t need to have a Data Protection Officer or undertake impact assessments.

The UK government is aiming for a clampdown on bureaucracy, red tape and pointless paperwork for businesses as part of its data law reforms.

To round off London Tech Week, the government is publishing its response to a data consultation. As reported in September 2021, there was talk of innovation in data with an overhaul of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and an open consultation.

In today’s (17 June) announcement, the government sets out how the Data Reform Bill announced in this year’s Queen’s Speech will “reduce burdens on businesses to deliver around £1 billion in cost savings”.

There’s no doubting the importance of data. Based on the government’s stats, data-driven trade generated nearly three quarters of the UK’s total service exports and generated an estimated £234 billion for the economy in 2019.

In a dig at the European Union’s “highly complex” General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the government says the bill will remove the UK GDPR’s “prescriptive requirements”.

Snarky comments from our overlords aside, this means that certain organisations, such as small businesses, won’t need to have a Data Protection Officer or undertake impact assessments. The caveat being – “provided they can manage risks effectively themselves, and they will not have to fill out unnecessary forms where the risk is low”.

Organisations will still be required to have a privacy management programme to ensure they are accountable for how they process personal data.

As mentioned above, there are also plans to modernise the ICO, the data regulator.

This overhaul includes a chair, chief executive and a board for the ICO; and broadening the legal responsibility underpinning the ICO’s work.

The data regulator will have new objectives which “will give Parliament and the public better ability to hold the regulator to account”. These objectives will be set out in the bill.

The reforms will introduce a new way for how the ICO develops statutory codes and guidance; and it will be required to set up a panel of experts in relevant fields when developing each piece of statutory guidance.

The Secretary of State will also need to approve ICO statutory codes and guidance before they are presented to Parliament. The government says this will bring the ICO in line with other UK regulators, such as the Electoral Commission.

John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner, who started his role in January, adds: “I am pleased to see the government has taken our concerns about independence on board [and] the proposed changes will ensure my office can continue to operate as a trusted, fair and impartial regulator.”

Elsewhere, the government uses the announcement to make more veiled criticisms of the EU; gives scientists “clarity” about when they can obtain user consent to collect or use data for broad research purposes; and shares ideas on protecting consumers from nuisance calls and unnecessary cookies.

Antony Peyton
Antony Peyton
Antony Peyton is the Editor of eWeek UK. He has 18 years' journalism and writing experience. His career has taken him to China, Japan and the UK - covering tech, fintech and business. Follow on Twitter @TonyFintech.

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