Not so much a Statement of Intent, as a Statement of the Bleeding Obvious
The wait is not quite over. We don’t yet have a Data Protection Bill, but we do have a Statement of Intent from DCMS, explaining what the proposed legislation will contain. I though it would be helpful to do a short briefing note based on my very quick assessment of the Statement. So here it is
IT’S JUST AN ANNOUNCEMENT OF ALL THE THINGS THE UK WOULD HAVE TO IMPLEMENT ANYWAY UNDER EUROPEAN LAW
By which I mean, it proposes law changes which will be happening in May next year, when the General Data Protection Regulation becomes directly applicable, or changes made under our obligation to implement the Police and Crime Directive. In a little more detail, here are some things of passing interest, none of which is hugely unexpected.
As predicted by many, at page 8 it is announced that the UK will legislate to require parents to give consent to children’s access to information society services (i.e. online services) where the child is under 13 (rather than GDPR’s default 16). As the UK lobbied to give member states discretion on this, it is no surprise.
Exemptions from compliance with majority of data protection law when the processing is for the purposes of journalism will remain (page 19). The Statement says that the government
believe the existing exemptions set out in section 32 strike the right balance between privacy and freedom of expression
But of potential note is the suggestion that
The main difference will be to amend provisions relating to the ICO’s enforcement powers to strengthen the ICO’s ability to enforce the re-enacted section 32 exemptions effectively
Without further details it is impossible to know what will be proposed here, but any changes to the existing regime which might have the effect of decreasing the size of the media’s huge carve-out will no doubt be vigorously lobbied against.
There is confirmation (at pp17 and 18) that third parties (i.e. not just criminal justice bodies) will be able to access criminal conviction information. Again, this is not unexpected – the regime for criminal records checks for employers etc was unlikely to be removed.
The Statement proposes a new criminal offence of intentionally or recklessly re-identifying individuals from anonymised or pseudonymised data, something the Commons Science and Technology Committee has called for. Those who subsequently process such data will also be guilty of an offence. The details here will be interesting to see – as with most privacy-enhancing technology, in order for anonymisation to be robust it needs to stress-tested – such testing will not be effective if those undertaking do so at risk of committing an offence, so presumably the forthcoming Bill will provide for this.
The Bill will also introduce an offence of altering records with intent to prevent disclosure following a subject access request. This will use the current mechanism at section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Whether that section itself will be amended (time limits for prosecutions militate against its effectiveness) remains unknown.
I also note that the existing offence of unlawfully obtaining personal data will be widened to those who retain personal data against the wishes of the data controller, even where it was initially obtained lawfully. This will probably cover those situations where people gather or are sent personal data in error, and then refuse to return it.
There is one particular howler at page 21, which suggests the government doesn’t understand what privacy by design and privacy by default mean:
The Bill will also set out to reassure citizens by promoting the concept of “privacy by default and design”. This is achieved by giving citizens the right to know when their personal data has been released in contravention of the data protection safeguards, and also by offering them a clearer right of redress
Privacy by design/default is about embedding privacy protection throughout the lifecycle of a project or process etc., and has got nothing at all to do with notifying data subjects of breaches, and whether this is a drafting error in the Statement, or a fundamental misunderstanding, it is rather concerning that the government, which makes much of “innovation” (around which privacy by design should be emphasised), fails to get this right.
So that’s a whistle stop tour of the Statement, ignoring all the fluff about implementing things which are required under GDPR and the Directive. I’ll update this piece in due course, if anything else emerges from a closer reading.
The views in this post (and indeed all posts on this blog) are my personal ones, and do not represent the views of any organisation I am involved with.
11 responses to “DCMS Statement of Intent on the Data Protection Bill”
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We have a more detailed response on derogations from DCMS. Uploading it to ORG’s site right now.
“The Statement proposes a new criminal offence of intentionally or recklessly re-identifying individuals from anonymised or pseudonymised data.” Surely this would only be possible from pseudonymised data? If data are properly anonymised, reversing the process – re-identifying individuals – should be impossible. I understood that to be the difference between pseudonymising and anonymising.
I believe personal data can be sufficiently anonymised so that it is outside the DPA personal data definition while still retaining some risk of re-identification. So if an agreed set of controls rendering personal data as sufficiently anonymised are in place then fail, this could be due to ‘recklessness’ e.g. publishing publicly in error. Other factors such as technological advancements or the emergence of new datasets could also mean the previous level of controls may no longer be sufficient.
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