ICO says UK should adopt EU-style data protection rules post-Brexit

Elizabeth Denham said the UK needs tougher penalties for people who breach regulation


UK information commissioner Elizabeth Denham has made her first speech after taking on the role, announcing her commitment to transforming the UK's data privacy laws, suggesting an EU-like policy needs to be put in place.

She explained research by the ICO revealed only one in four Brits trust UK businesses with their data and the primary aim of her five years in office is to change that, building a culture of data trust in the country.

"At the end of my five year term my wish is that we are at a place where citizens and consumers have much more confidence in organisations' use of personal data," she said. "I want that survey figure of one in four to go up."

This will be done by transforming the UK's data and protection policies, aligning them with the EU's mission. It will be a "progressive regulatory regime that stands up to scrutiny, that doesn't leave the UK open to having rocks thrown at it by other regimes. And that has consistency and adequacy with the Europe."

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Europe's new privacy laws, which come into effect in 2018, will come down harder on businesses that don't comply with the regulations, including hefty fines - up to 4% of a company's annual turnover.

Although Denham didn't reveal whether such fines would be imposed on UK companies should they not meet the guidelines, she suggested such action was necessary in order to protect the UK trade and UK citizens.

"The fact is, no matter what the future legal relationship between the UK and Europe, personal information will need to flow," she explained. "It is fundamental to the digital economy. In a global economy we need consistency of law and standards the GDPR is a strong law, and once we are out of Europe, we will still need to be deemed adequate or essentially equivalent."

Denham added that she's currently in talks with ministers and senior officials in government to help it come up with a fair set of policies that should be transformational rather than negatively affecting business.

"Legislative change does bring nervousness, but it also brings opportunity. These changes stronger data protection law and enforcement  are aimed at inspiring public trust and confidence," she concluded.

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