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The UK’s data protection reforms: explaining and mapping the proposals

Thu Oct 28, 2021
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We explain and summarise the UK government’s data reform proposals to help others give their views and evidence – updated June 2022

— Updated June 2022 —

Introduction

In September 2021 the UK government published ‘Data: a new direction’ – a set of draft reforms to the UK’s data protection regime, which was out for consultation until 19 November 2021. The consultation was open to anyone to submit their views or their evidence. The consultation received 2,924 responses: you can read ODI’s response here.

On 10 May 2022, at the State Opening of Parliament, the Queen’s Speech announcing the government’s legislative programme for the new Parliamentary session included a commitment to reforming the UK’s data laws.

On 17 June 2022 the government published its response to the feedback and evidence it had received through the consultation process. This includes a synthesis of all the responses to each of the proposed reforms, and a statement from the government about whether or how it plans to proceed on each one.

It’s not often a country changes its laws on data, and the proposals are wide-ranging – covering topics such as artificial intelligence (AI) ethics and the future of the ICO. Any change to data protection law will impact organisations and communities across the UK, and potentially further. Engagement from these organisations and communities will strengthen the evidence base considered by the government, and can help determine the future of these reforms. So it is vital that these proposals are engaged with widely.

In September 2021, the government’s arguments and proposals were published in a long and complex consultation document. So we created and published a a set of summaries of the arguments and proposals, as well as a spreadsheet that maps each proposal and the consultation questions about it, to help others plan their response to the consultation.

In June 2022, we updated these resources to help organisations and communities navigate the government’s plans to reform the UK’s data laws.

Summarising the arguments and proposals

Read our original autumn 2021 summary of the government’s arguments and proposals in ‘Data: a new direction’.

For each chapter summary, we highlighted topic-specific Open Data Institute (ODI) resources where we think our evidence base could offer a constructive critical or creative perspective on the questions.

For each chapter summary we also highlighted relevant government documents – such as policy papers and parliamentary reports – to contextualise the proposals within the government’s wider strategic objectives. Some other documents (such as reports from the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office) are also included to help readers understand ‘lessons learned’ from previous government data policies.

In June 2022, we updated this explainer by adding a short list in each chapter of which of those proposals the government plans to proceed with, which ones it plans to give further consideration, and which ones it does not plan to proceed with.

Mapping the proposals and questions

Download our original autumn 2021 spreadsheet summary of the government’s proposals and consultation questions in ‘Data: a new direction’.

We created a tab for each chapter of the consultation and for the economic impact analysis paper. On each tab, the proposals in that chapter are listed in a column on the left and the questions about those proposals listed beside them in a column on the right.

In UK policymaking, a green paper typically sets out for discussion proposals which are still at a formative stage; while a white paper is typically issued by the government as a statement of policy and a proposal for legislative change. The proposals in ‘Data: a new direction’ have been described as ‘minty’ – a combination of green paper stage and white paper stage. This means that some of the proposals are fairly high-level with quite open-ended questions, and some of the proposals are fairly developed with focussed questions.

In June 2022, we updated this mapper with new features: for each chapter tab, we’ve added columns to track what feedback was received for each proposal, and how government plans to proceed for that proposal. You can use filters to explore the national responses that different proposals received, as well as how the government’s plans compare to the feedback that was received. We’ve also included summaries of ODI’s feedback on each proposals, so you can see how our position compares to both the national position and the government position; and you can download the mapper and adapt it to produce the same comparison for your position too.

Next steps

We plan to engage with UK data protection reform as the draft legislation makes its way through Parliament.  You can follow the team at @ODIHQ on Twitter for updates, or contact us on policy@theodi.org if you’d be interested in collaborating. For more information on how we’ve engaged so far, please explore our project page.