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Foreign Policy Foreign Policy

Be the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet

Last updated: 10:57am 21 November 2019

And we will take up leadership in a new arena, where concern is shared around the world: we will be the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.38

Our verdict

In 2018, the EU introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), setting the general principles for handling personal data in its member states. It was the biggest change to privacy regulations in 20 years. This policy promises the UK will be “the global leader in the regulation of personal data and the internet”. We would expect the world leader to establish a regulatory landscape which goes further than others in controlling the use of personal data online.   The “global leader” would, therefore, need to introduce regulatory legislation which differed significantly from other states.

In line with the GDPR, in 2018 the UK passed the Data Protection Act (DPA), setting out how personal data can be used, how long it can be kept, and how its security should be ensured. The DPA also allows people to find out what information the government and other organisations store about them, and how that information is used. The DPA is a UK law but it is not a world-leading piece of legislation. The government’s own website tells us:

“The Data Protection Act 2018 is the UK’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).”

It could even be argued that the DPA provides weakened protection for UK citizens because of certain  ways in which it ‘derogates’ or deviates from GDPR provisions.

At the end of the government’s term of office, the most influential legislation in terms of privacy is still the GDPR. It led to all EU member states enacting stronger privacy regulations, including the UK with the Data Protection Act. EU member states are considered to have “‘heavy” data protection laws. With no evidence of action from the government to improve on the EU standards to become a “global leader” in the sector, this policy remains ‘not started’.

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