The Queen’s Speech on 10 May 2022, set out the government’s intention to reform the UK’s data protection laws, although no details have been provided. Since the UK left the European Union there have been several key moments regarding data protection over the last few years, which may perhaps indicate what the reforms could be in connection with.
Firstly, on leaving the EU, the UK implemented the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) into UK law, creating UK GDPR. Whilst the UK have always said they wish to maintain high standards when it comes to data protection, the UK also wishes to be able to create its own legislation.
Secondly, one of the immediate issues upon leaving the EU was how data could transfer between the UK and EU member states since the UK was considered a third country under data protection laws. Despite this however, the EU and UK agreed to a six-month period commencing 1 January 2020, to allow for alternative arrangements to be put in place, or for an adequacy decision to be granted.
Eventually, an adequacy decision was granted meaning that the UK could continue to transfer data freely to and from EU member states, i.e. to continue with processing data between the UK and EU just as if it was still within the EU.
What is understood, is that as part of the adequacy decision, the EU Commission incorporated a measure which would allow the decision to be reversed if the UK was to substantially change its data protection laws. Another example of a measure includes the adequacy decision containing a ‘sunset clause’, which allows the decision to expire in 2024.
The whole basis of the UK having been granted the adequacy decision in the first place was because of the high standards it brought into legislation for processing data.
The Queen’s Speech background notes explains the main elements of the new Data Reform Bill:
- “Take advantage of the benefits of Brexit to create a world class data rights regime that will allow us to create a new pro-growth and trusted UK data protection framework that reduces burdens on businesses, boosts the economy, helps scientists to innovate and improves the lives of people in the UK
- Modernise the Information Commissioners Office making sure it has the capabilities and powers to take stronger action against organisations who breach data rules while requiring it to be more accountable to Parliament and the public
- Increase industry participate in Smart Data Schemes which will give citizens and small businesses more control over their data. The Bill would also help those who need health care treatments by helping improve appropriate access to data in health and social care contexts”.
Clearly, following the government’s announcement in the Queen’s speech of a Data Reform Bill, we are likely to see further developments on data protection in the future.
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