At the beginning of July, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, gave a speech at the annual Privacy Laws & Business conference, outlining the government’s stance on the implications of Brexit for a range of data issues including the GDPR, cybersecurity, international data transfers and the Internet of Things. The speech emphasised the need to “think about the opportunities as well as the challenges” of Brexit.

Acknowledging that some aspects of the future are uncertain, the Minister for Data Protection stated that any country wishing to handle the data of EU citizens would need to provide an adequate level of data protection. This will be a major consideration in the UK’s withdrawal negotiations. The minister noted that there continues to be “explosive growth” in digital developments and that the need to protect personal data will remain a priority.

Also at the beginning of July, Interim Deputy Commissioner Steve Wood published a blog on the website of the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”). The blog states that although the GDPR’s applicability to the UK is uncertain, the regulation remains relevant to many organisations in the UK, particularly those operating internationally. As such, the ICO will continue to publish guidance on its provisions.  Mr Wood also called for “clear laws with safeguards in place” to support the growing digital economy.

A legislative response to this is the Digital Economy Bill 2016-17, which was introduced to the House of Commons and given its first reading 5 July. The bill tackles a variety of digital economy issues, including:

  • Strengthening the ICO’s powers
  • New protections for individuals’ rights
  • A new Direct Marketing Code of Practice
  • Electronic communications infrastructure and services
  • Restriction of underage access to pornography

The bill will soon be considered by MPs at second reading, where amendments can be suggested and made.