On 10 September 2021, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) launched a public consultation on its proposed reforms to the UK’s data protection regime, with a view to assessing the case for legislative change.

The consultation comes as the first step in the government’s plans to deliver on ‘Mission 2’ of its National Data Strategy, published in 2020: to secure a data regime that promotes growth and innovation for UK businesses, while also maintaining public trust.

The UK’s data protection regime has not received a substantive update since 2018 when the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect, alongside the introduction of the UK’s Data Protection Act 2018. The government’s National Data Strategy has suggested that the UK may start to move away from EU law when it comes to data protection.

According to the Secretary of State, the ultimate aim of the consultation is to ‘create a more pro-growth and pro-innovation data regime, whilst maintaining the UK’s world-leading data protection standards’.

The consultation seeks views on issues raised in the government’s 146 page reform paper (available to download here). According to this paper, the key changes proposed include:

  • Reducing barriers to responsible innovation – an emphasis on the UK’s data protection regime being a adaptable and dynamic set of rules that are flexible enough to be interpreted quickly and clearly in order to fit the fast-changing world of data-driven technologies
  • Reducing compliance burdens on businesses – a commitment to high standards of data protection and a regulatory regime that delivers effectively without unnecessary burdens, moving away from a ‘box-ticking’ compliance regime to one which encourages a proactive and systemic approach
  • Boosting trade and reducing barriers to data flows – a commitment to working with international partners to remove unnecessary barriers to cross-border data flows, in line with the government’s ambition for the UK to be a leader in digital trade and the world’s most attractive data marketplace, through the creation of an autonomous UK framework of international data transfers
  • Delivering better public services – building on the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demonstrated power of using personal data responsibly in the public interest and the benefits of collaboration between the public and private sectors
  • Reforming the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – improving the legislative framework that underpins the ICO by: setting new and improved objectives and a clearer strategic vision for the regulator; improving accountability mechanisms, and; refocusing its statutory commitments away from handling a high volume of low-level complaints and towards addressing the most serious threats to public trust and inappropriate barriers to responsible data use

The government hopes to use the evidence gained through the consultation to help shape future reforms and has emphasised its commitment to working with partners across all sectors and parts of the UK to improve the data regime, encouraging responses from a broad set of respondents.

The consultation is considered by the DCMS to have particular relevance to: individuals; start-ups and small businesses; technology companies and data-driven or data-rich companies; investors in technology and data-driven or data-rich companies; civil society organisations focused on consumer rights, digital rights, privacy and data protection; academics; organisations involved in international data standards, regulations and governance; law firms and other professional business services.

The consultation closes at 11:45 pm on 19 November 2021.

  • Visit DCMS’s online survey platform to submit your response
  • Email responses can be sent to DataReformConsultation@dcms.gov.uk
  • Hard copy responses can be sent to: Domestic Data Protection team, DCMS, 100 Parliament Street, London, SW1A 2BQ

More information can be found on the government website here.