ICO: Future UK Data Protection Laws Must Equal Those Of EU

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Safe Habour advice. British data protection act should be used when transferring data to US, says ICO

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says future data protection regulations will have to be as strong as those afforded by the EU if the UK wants to continue trading with the bloc once it leaves.

It comes after the United States and the EU agreed to strengthen the Privacy Shield agreement, but with the UK opting to leave the European Union, direction was needed for firms operating in this country.

Data Protection Act

“The Data Protection Act remains the law of the land irrespective of the referendum result,” said an ICO spokesperson.

“If the UK is not part of the EU, then upcoming EU reforms to data protection law would not directly apply to the UK,” said the spokesperson. “But if the UK wants to trade with the Single Market on equal terms we would have to prove ‘adequacy’ – in other words UK data protection standards would have to be equivalent to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) framework starting in 2018.”

The GDPR has been in the planning since January 2012, and it aims to give citizens back control over their data in the digital age, including the right to be forgotten. It also imposes stiff financial penalties on businesses for not protecting data.

ICOThe European Parliament officially approved the GDPR in April this year and it is set to become law in 2018, by which time the UK will no longer be part of the European Union.

“With so many businesses and services operating across borders, international consistency around data protection laws and rights is crucial both to businesses and organisations and to consumers and citizens,” said the ICO spokesperson. “The ICO’s role has always involved working closely with regulators in other countries, and that would continue to be the case.”

“Having clear laws with safeguards in place is more important than ever given the growing digital economy, and we will be speaking to government to present our view that reform of the UK law remains necessary,” said the ICO spokesperson.

Data Protection

The ICO’s statement reveals that the UK will have to have a similar law in place if it is to match the  GDPR in 2018. That law replaces the Data Protection Directive that was introduced in 1995, and it takes into account the arrival of the Internet, smartphones, and social networking.

The GDPR includes powers to issue hefty financial penalties. Companies that do not comply with its strict new requirements could face fines of up to 4 percent of their global revenue for the previous year, or 20m euros (£15.8m) depending on which is greater.

In the UK for example, the maximum current penalty (under the UK Data Protection Act) stands at just £500,000.

Earlier this year nearly 80 percent of UK medium and large businesses said they were not confident they will be able to comply with the GDPR regulations.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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