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Data Protection Bill To Include Journalist Safeguards

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Government says journalists and researchers to be given safeguards under proposed data protection bill

The government has said its new Data Protection Bill will include safeguards to ensure freedom of the press, and allow for confidential scientific research.

The proposed Bill also aims to clamp down on fraud, and includes measures to tackle terrorist financing, money laundering and child abuse.

Last month the government said the new Bill would give the UK one of the “most robust” set of data laws, as well as prepare the country for its post-Brexit future by giving Brits much greater control over how their information is collected and used.

ICO, data protection, GDPR

Data Protection

The government plans are to make British data laws fit for digital age, in a post Brexit world.

People will be able to ask social media platforms to delete information they posted in childhood, withdraw consent for data to be used, and make it easier to make a request for how much data an organisation holds on an individual.

The bill will also enshrine the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) act into British law and make organisations that collect data much more accountable.

The government said the new Bill will also preserve existing tailored exemptions that have worked well in the Data Protection Act 1998, carrying them over to the new law.

It said it has “successfully negotiated these exemptions from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation to create a proportionate data protection regime which is right for Britain.”

“We are strengthening Britain’s data rules to make them fit for the digital age in which we live and that means giving people more control over their own data,” said Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital.

“There are circumstances where the processing of data is vital for our economy, our democracy and to protect us against illegality. Today, as we publish the Data Protection Bill, I am offering assurances to both the public and private sector that we are protecting this important work.”

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Safeguards And Exceptions

So what exactly are the new safeguards for journalists and researchers, the government is proposing?

Well, the Bill will include a number of data processing exceptions, as it said that the “processing of personal data by journalists for freedom of expression and to expose wrongdoing is to be safeguarded.”

For the scientific community, “scientific and historical research organisations such as museums and universities will be exempt from certain obligations which would impair their core functions.”

Meanwhile national bodies fighting doping in sport will continue to be able to process data to catch drug cheats. The financial services sector will be protected when processing data associated with terrorist financing or money laundering.

And where justified, the Bill will allow the processing of sensitive and criminal conviction data without consent.

This will allow employers to fulfil obligations of employment law, said the government.

Higher Fines

The Government has also published a number of factsheets about the Data Protection Bill.

Incidentally, under the new Bill the information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will be able to impose much higher fines. At present it can only issue a maximum penalty of £500,000 – the current record was set earlier this year when a nuisance call firm was imposed with a £400,000 fine.

Under the Data Protection Bill, this will increase to £17 million, or four percent of global turnover, for the most serious of infringements.

The ICO has consistently called for greater powers, most notably after the TalkTalk hack in 2015.

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