A recently issued statement of intent from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport aims to change the way those who collect data online use it for the foreseeable future. The statement outlines plans to initiate legislation that will further protect consumers against the misuse of their personal information, with or without their consent.
Among the new protections is greater control over data by individual consumers. As an example, consumers will be able to maximise the ‘right to be forgotten' by requesting social media sites erase their information.
All the new data protection rules will be encapsulated in legislation to be known as the Data Protection Bill. The government says the bill will instil confidence in people that they have absolute control over their data. According to the statement of intent, research currently shows that up to 80% of the public lacks that confidence right now.
Shifting the Responsibility
Once the new legislation becomes law, it will shift the burden of responsibility from the consumer to the organisation that collects data. It will require organisations to obtain explicit consent for processing certain kinds of personal data. At the same time, it will eliminate the default tick boxes organisations currently use to obtain consent. It is the government's contention that such tick boxes are largely ignored.
The legislation will also:
- Make it easier for consumers to withdraw consent
- Give consumers the ability to request their personal data be erased
- Give parents and guardians control over data collected from minors
- Expand the definition of ‘personal data' to include cookie information, ip addresses, and dna information
- Give consumers more power to force organisations to reveal what kinds of data they have
- Make it easier for consumers to move data between organisations
- Update and strengthen existing data protection laws to bring them in line with the state of the digital economy
The government is extremely serious about shifting responsibility from consumers to data collectors. They have created significant penalties for violators, and the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) will be granted greater authority to enforce the rules. The statement of intent makes it clear that organisations will be held accountable for the data they gather.
“Our measures are designed to support businesses in their use of data, and give consumers the confidence that their data is protected and those who misuse it will be held to account,” said Minister of State for Digital Matt Hancock.
Hancock went on to explain that the legislation will give consumers more control over their data while also preparing the UK for Brexit. On that latter point, the legislation brings UK consumer data protection laws in line with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation.
All that remains to be seen now is whether the final Data Protection Bill lives up to the promises of the statement of intent. If it does, the UK will have one of the strongest consumer data protection laws in the world.