Giving evidence to the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee, Antony Walker explains why ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of global data protection standards will be crucial for a Global Britain.
Antony Walker, Deputy CEO techUK, gave evidence to the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee as part of its inquiry into the EU Data Protection Package. Giving evidence alongside Antony was Ruth Boardman, co-Head of International Data Protection Practice at Bird and Bird LLP and a member of techUK’s Brexit Advisory Panel.
The Committee is examining the incoming General Data Protection Regulation, the EU-US Privacy Shield, the Law Enforcement Directive and the EU-US Umbrella Agreement, along with the crucial issue of the future of the UK’s data transfer arrangements with EU Member States. This continues to be a priority issue for techUK members as Brexit negotiations approach.
Confirming the importance of data transfers, not just to the UK tech sector, but entire UK economy, Antony outlined the need for certainty, clarity and confidence for UK businesses when it comes to their ability to transfer data after Brexit. He told the Committee an adequacy agreement is the best way to achieve this, especially as the economy becomes increasingly digitised. Adequacy offers the greatest continuity and clarity for businesses and will provide a robust mechanism for transfering data between the UK and EU. While there are other mechanisms available, these involve significant administrative, legal and financial burdens which would have the greatest impact on SMEs. Adequacy is also the most legally robust mechanism, with legal challenges against other mechanisms ongoing.
A key aspect of securing an adequacy finding will be the UK’s data protection laws. techUK welcomes the Government's committment to implement the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation. This demonstrates that the UK's committment to ensuring citizens’ personal information is handled safely and securely. The UK has had an important influence on these reforms and it is important that in a post-Brexit world the UK Information Commissioner’s Office continues to have a voice in both European and International Data Protection debates. techUK would like to see the ICO have a role on the new European Data Protection Board once established, to ensure that influence can continue.
Whilst it may be possible for the UK to adapt GDPR once no longer a member of the EU both Antony Walker and Ruth Boardman stated to the Committee any divergence from the EU standard would have to be carefully considered and not undermine the ability of data to flow.
The Committee also asked about the importance of UK – US data flows and techUK confirmed that the UK would need to establish a mechanism to allow data to be transferred to the US once no longer part of the EU-US Privacy Shield. This arrangement would have to be considered in light of the arrangement with the EU, to ensure that data can continue to flow uninterrupted both sides of the Atlantic.
In concluding his evidence, Antony urged the Committee to highlight in its recommendations the importance of cross-border data transfers for both citizens and for the Government’s vision of a Global Britain. The ability of data to cross borders is a key strategic issue at the heart of that ambition. It is a complicated issue, but one that will ensure the UK continues to be a world leader in the digital economy.
techUK will continue to work with its members to highlight the importance of international data flows to the entire UK economy along with the need for a secure and robust legal mechanism for the transfer of data between the UK and EU, ideally based on an adequacy finding.
You can watch the evidence session here.
For more information of techUK’s work on Data Protection please contact Jeremy Lilley, or for more information on techUK’s work on Exiting the EU please contact Giles Derrington.