A new data protection doctrine under the GDPR must make the UK a data-friendly economy


The General Data Protection Regulation, better known as GDPR, had a lot of implications for UK businesses when it came into force a little over three years ago and is why every website you visit asks you to accept cookies. It was a pan-European plan that Britain accepted as it prepared to leave the European Union. Culture Minister Oliver Dowden has made it clear that Great Britain is now setting its own territory for Internet regulation.

Some companies were surprised by this announcement after spending a lot of time and money getting GDPR compliant. But that had a certain inevitability. When we dealt with the new rules in May 2018, one of the most frequent questions I heard was: “Will this still apply after we have left the EU?”

Fast forward to September 2021: We have left the EU. After Brexit, the UK wants to be the world leader in data with a pro-data sharing and pro-data economy. No wonder that the ministers like to use the freedom to write their own data protection regulations. The UK digital sector employs around 1.5 million people and is worth £ 400 million a day to the UK economy – nearly 8 percent.

To that end, it is vital to the country’s economy that we have an uninterrupted flow of international data. The way we exchange data is an integral part of how our future economy will work. In the same way that we enter into trade deals, negotiating agreements with countries around the world over the flow of cross-border data must be at the forefront of Dowden’s plan.

Being unconditionally bound by GDPR has been an obstacle to innovative data agreements. However, the data rulebook must not be torn apart just to prove that we can. The EU has already threatened to revoke data-sharing agreements with the UK “immediately” if we get too far from their ship. The point of easing data regulation is to help businesses grow in a data-friendly economy. If we part with the EU because of the data, these companies will be affected by the uncertainty.

Of course, we still have to ensure that the data collected is not passed on to third parties without consent. Privacy must come first in our thinking. We need to be ethical with data and keep it safe. These are basic principles of data protection and not bureaucratic paperwork.

Managing this balance while creating enough room for innovation will be a tricky dance for officials. The government has announced a national data strategy, the success of which will be critical to the UK’s economic growth. We need to find a way to get the most out of data sharing to make it a public good.

The “Data Saves Lives” strategy launched by the NHS Digital Branch has been a great example of where data can be put to good use – to improve health outcomes and the quality of care. However, in the wake of the announcement, there has been a reluctance to share data, even with the NHS. Unless robust protection of people’s data is in place, trust in data sharing, and therefore the good that can be achieved from a wealth of information, will be undermined.

Public sectors such as education, transport and local government can thrive when there is more access to information. School curricula can be adapted to the needs of children in different areas and train timetables could be more efficient. If we take back our faith in the GDPR, this area of ​​growth will accelerate.

UK Daily Politics 2021

As someone who advises public sector organizations on their data strategies on a daily basis, it would be negligent not to point out that we have to constantly innovate and evolve our regulatory approach in response to the changing demands of our digital economy.

Dowden’s claim that the GDPR is a “tick” exercise was a misguided shot at European regulations. The role of data is to give UK citizens more control over how their data is used and to build trust in the exchange of information that supports the growth of businesses and services. This is not a post-Brexit triumph, just a sensible development.


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