The UK’s legislative agenda for next year includes a data reform bill that could challenge the future of the EU’s Data adequacy ruling, the ruling that has continued to facilitate data transfers through the Channel after The UK left the EU in January 2020.
The bill was one of those included in this year’s Speech from the Throne, which marks the official opening of Parliament and in which the monarch outlines the government’s legislative plans for the coming year. This year, however, the Queen was not present for health reasons and it was Prince Charles and William who delivered her speech.
After the country left the EU, the British government introduced a bill implementing the GDPR, the European data protection law, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in 2020 his desire to deviate from the European framework and develop different policies. .
A year later, the EU adopted its Data Adequacy Decision and concluded that UK data protection as it stood was sufficient to continue data transfers between the EU and the UK. However, it has put in place measures that allow the Commission to reverse this decision in the event of a substantial change in British policy.
Thus a “sunset clause” allows the decision to expire automatically in 2024, when its renewal will be conditional on the UK maintaining comparable standards.
Brussels is particularly concerned about the UK’s stated desire to establish new data flows with countries such as the US, Australia, South Korea and Singapore, which it fears will lead the transfer of personal data from the EU to third countries with data standards. inadequate privacy.
Details of what the reforms might include have yet to be published, but when it opened a public consultation on the initiative last year, the government said it wanted to put in place a data protection scheme that would minimize “unnecessary barriers to responsible data use” as much as “uncertainty or excessive risk” for business and equipping the Information Commissioner’s Office for regulation in a more data-driven environment.
According to Sky News, the bill will be part of a larger package of data protection reforms, which will include the removal of cookie consent banners. Sky also reports that the government is expected to publish its response to the reform consultation in the coming weeks, with the bill possibly published by the summer.
The future of the data adequacy decision
“The Commission’s initial decision to ensure the adequacy of UK data was already legally questionable, as the UK was repeatedly found to be in breach of EU law due to the way law enforcement agencies UK national security collect personal data.Zach Meyers, a researcher at the Center for European Reform, told EURACTIV.
“If the UK moves further away from GDPR, then the Commission may feel it has no choice but to withdraw the adequacy decision”declared.
He added that minor reforms might not be seen as a serious danger to people’s rights under the GDPR, but added that if the UK government pursues more sweeping reforms, such as reinstatement due to data protection regulator independence, “The Commission will have to carefully consider the possibility of revoking the adequacy decision. »
If the adequacy decision is reversed, the UK could realign itself with other countries in the long run, but the immediate costs of adjustment would likely hit UK business hard.
Digital politics this year
The Speech from the Throne also contained a number of other digital-related proposals. A Broadcasting Bill is expected to privatize Britain’s currently state-owned Channel 4, while the Online Security Bill, a measure to regulate online service providers introduced in March, was postponed. for the next session.
More broadly, the government is also expected to introduce the Brexit Freedoms bill, it says. “Brexit Freedoms Bill”which will facilitate the process of abandoning the European legislation still in force in the United Kingdom, putting an end to its special status.
In addition, the bill does not provide for the authorization of a new digital regulator, the digital markets unit (Digital Markets UnitDMU), which was preliminarily created last year and currently operates without a legal basis.
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