UK government announces new information commissioner and consultation on potential changes to data regime

August 25, 2021

The current Privacy Commissioner of New Zealand, John Edwards, has been named as the government’s preferred new Information Commissioner

As well as the announcement of the new Information Commissioner, the government says that his role will be wider than the current ICO role, and will promote the responsible use of data to stimulate innovation and economic growth.

The UK government has also announced that it intends to enter into data partnerships with various jurisdictions, including the USA, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, the Dubai International Finance Centre and Colombia. The government says that the aim is to move quickly and creatively to develop global partnerships which will make it easier for UK organisations to exchange data with important markets and fast-growing economies. These new partnerships will build on the existing 42 adequacy arrangements the UK has in place with countries around the world. The government has also published a Mission Statement on the UK’s approach to international data transfers and a UK Adequacy Manual. These will be used to inform the assessment of a territory’s commitment to high data protection standards.

Significantly, it also intends to launch a consultation shortly to “look at ways to increase trade and innovation through data regime”. According to a Telegraph interview with Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden, reform of data protection rules is “one of the big prizes of leaving the EU”, and could mean doing away with “tick box compliance” and cookie walls, except for “high risk” websites.

However, the government’s own press release merely states that the government wants to improve the UK’s data protection regime to make it “even more ambitious and innovation-friendly while still being underpinned by secure and trustworthy privacy standards”. It says that it believes improved data sharing can help deliver more agile, effective and efficient public services and help make the UK a science and technology hub.

It also says that the consultation will consider changes to break down barriers to innovative and responsible uses of data so it can boost growth, especially for startups and small firms, speed up scientific discoveries and improve public services. The consultation will also cover the role of the Information Commissioner’s Office so it can be empowered to encourage the responsible use of data to achieve economic and social goals as well as preventing privacy breaches before they occur.