The British government has stated its intention to overhaul the UK’s privacy and data protection rules, as it seeks to establish global data partnerships with the United States, Australia and Republic of Korea.

The government also announced the appointment of a new information commissioner, who will be put in charge of overseeing the transformation.

John Edwards is currently the privacy commissioner of New Zealand, but after a ‘global search, he is the British government’s preferred candidate to replace Elizabeth Denham, whose term in office will end on 31 October after a three-month extension.

Data Protection

The government announcement comes as the UK seeks to establish its own data protection and privacy stance, thanks to its ability negotiate agreements by itself, in a post Brexit world.

Its intention is for initial multi-billion pound global data partnerships with the US, Australia and Republic of Korea.

“The government is outlining the first territories with which it will prioritise striking ‘data adequacy’ partnerships now it has left the EU as the United States, Australia, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, the Dubai International Finance Centre and Colombia,” it said.

It also confirmed that future partnerships with India, Brazil, Kenya and Indonesia are being prioritised.

In June this year European Union formally recognised the UK’s data protection standards, after more than a year of constructive talks

The European Commission said at the time that it had “adopted two adequacy decisions for the United Kingdom – one under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the other for the Law Enforcement Directive.”

But now the UK is looking further afield than just Europe, and it new data adequacy partnerships “will be subject to assessments that ensure high data protection standards,” and “will build significantly on the £80 billion of data-enabled service exports to these 10 destinations from the UK every year.”

The said estimates suggest there is as much as £11 billion worth of trade that goes unrealised around the world due to barriers associated with data transfers.

So the UK wants to quickly develop global partnerships which will make it easier for UK organisations to exchange data with important markets and fast-growing economies.

These new partnerships will build on the existing 42 adequacy arrangements the UK has in place with countries around the world (i.e. New Zealand, Japan and Canada, as well the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Isle of Man).

Expanded powers

Meanwhile New Zealand Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has been as its preferred candidate to be the UK’s next Information Commissioner, following a global search.

The government said the new Information Commissioner and head of the UK regulator will continue to be responsible for enforcing data protection law, but he will be “empowered to go beyond the regulator’s traditional role of focusing only on protecting data rights, with a clear mandate to take a balanced approach that promotes further innovation and economic growth.”

“Now that we have left the EU I’m determined to seize the opportunity by developing a world-leading data policy that will deliver a Brexit dividend for individuals and businesses across the UK,” said digital secretary Oliver Dowden.

“That means seeking exciting new international data partnerships with some of the world’s fastest growing economies, for the benefit of British firms and British customers alike,” said Dowden.

“It means reforming our own data laws so that they’re based on common sense, not box-ticking,” said Dowden. “And it means having the leadership in place at the Information Commissioner’s Office to pursue a new era of data-driven growth and innovation. John Edwards’s vast experience makes him the ideal candidate to ensure data is used responsibly to achieve those goals.”

Cookie issue

And Dowden made clear he is seeking to end red tape and the bane for many web surfers at the moment, namely the highly annoying and frequent cookie pop-ups when a person is browsing multiple websites.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Dowden he signalled that the data protection reforms will cut down on ‘pointless’ cookie banners, which are used by organisations to secure consent for storing data when using their websites.

Meanwhile the proposed new Information Commissioner said the UK now has a great opportunity to expand upon the UK’s current data protection position.

“It is a great honour and responsibility to be considered for appointment to this key role as a watchdog for the information rights of the people of the United Kingdom,” said John Edwards.

“There is a great opportunity to build on the wonderful work already done and I look forward to the challenge of steering the organisation and the British economy into a position of international leadership in the safe and trusted use of data for the benefit of all,” said Edwards.

Edwards had been appointed to the role of NZ privacy commissioner in 2014.

Prior to that had worked as a lawyer for over 20 years and acted in legal roles for various government departments in New Zealand.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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