New data laws will focus on ‘common sense, not box-ticking', says minister

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the Government wants to diverge from some EU data rules in order to boost trade with other nations.

Post-Brexit data law reforms proposed by the Government could end the use of web cookie banners, as part of plans to move away from EU rules and focus on “common sense, not box-ticking”.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it hopes the measures, which also include new data partnerships with the US and other countries, will help get around existing trade barriers associated with data rules.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told the Daily Telegraph that one proposed change is to cut down on “pointless” online cookie banners, which are used by organisations to secure consent – required under current EU laws – to store data when people use their websites.

The plans would see the UK diverge from some parts of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in the UK three years ago, with Mr Dowden saying the UK wants to shape data laws that are less bureaucratic and stifling of innovation.

In the wake of Brexit, the Government said it wants to move “quickly and creatively” to develop new data partnerships around the world, making it easier for UK firms to exchange data with key markets and fast-growing economies.

It said it hopes the changes can help facilitate more data transfers between the UK and other nations in areas such as GPS navigation, online banking and even law enforcement.

As part of the first package of measures announced, the Government said it is prioritising striking data adequacy partnerships with the US, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, the Dubai International Finance Centre and Colombia.

Future partnerships with India, Brazil, Kenya and Indonesia are also to be prioritised.

“Now that we have left the EU, I’m determined to seize the opportunity by developing a world-leading data policy that will deliver a Brexit dividend for individuals and businesses across the UK,” Mr Dowden said.

“That means seeking exciting new international data partnerships with some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, for the benefit of British firms and British customers alike.

“It means reforming our own data laws so that they’re based on common sense, not box-ticking.”

In his interview with the Telegraph, Mr Dowden said data rules reform is “one of the big prizes” of leaving the EU and that data is the “oil” that will power the 21st century when harnessed properly.

He said some key parts of GDPR amount to “needless bureaucracy” and that, instead, the UK should be looking to protect privacy, but “in as light a touch way as possible”.

The main principles of GDPR are that businesses must have appropriate legal reasons for processing personal data and can only collect it for specific purposes.

But the Government believes that in some areas this has created red tape which is stifling innovation.

In response to the announcement, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said the UK’s data watchdog will help support the Government’s plans, but encouraged the pursuit of trust and transparency.

“Data-driven innovation stands to bring enormous benefits to the UK economy and to our society, but the digital opportunity before us today will only be realised where people continue to trust their data will be used fairly and transparently, both here in the UK and when shared overseas,” she said.

“My office has supported valuable innovation while encouraging public trust in data use, particularly during the pandemic. We stand ready to provide our expert advice and insight as part of any future Government consultation.”

As part of the announcement, the DCMS also revealed that it is naming New Zealand privacy commissioner John Edwards as its preferred candidate to be the UK’s next information commissioner when Ms Denham leaves the post in October.

Mr Dowden said Mr Edwards’ “vast experience makes him the ideal candidate to ensure data is used responsibly” to achieve the Government’s goals.

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