POLITICO Pro Morning Tech UK: Data bill lands — DSIT’s new faces — Bereaved families’ online safety plea
Presented by Google
By TOM BRISTOW
with ANNABELLE DICKSON and MARK SCOTT
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— We’ve got the lowdown on what to expect from the data bill as it returns to Parliament.
— The ‘Department of the Future’ has appointed a hereditary peer as a minister.
— Five families who have lost children to online harms head to Westminster.
Good morning and welcome back,
Wrap up! I’m writing this inside Portcullis House where my fingers are almost too cold to type. I’ll be ignoring fashion and investing in a pair of fingerless gloves shortly.
Get in touch with the team, Annabelle Dickson, Mark Scott and me on email. You can also follow us on Twitter @TomSBristow @NewsAnnabelle @markscott82.
|DRIVING THE DAY
DATA BILL DAY: The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (2.0) will be published this afternoon, but we can tell you what to expect now. Today’s announcement will introduce a new bill, but it is largely similar to the version that was unveiled in July.
In a nutshell: The original bill’s impact assessment claims it will save U.K. businesses £4.7 billion over the next 10 years (that’s £470 a year, for those maths boffins among us). DSIT Secretary of State Michelle Donelan said it will let businesses “take advantage of the many opportunities of post-Brexit Britain,” while civil society groups argue it is an erosion of people’s data rights.
Reasonably scientific: There are changes to how scientists can process personal data for research purposes. The revised bill has updated the definition of scientific research so businesses have the same freedoms as academics to use your data. The definition is now any processing that “could reasonably be described as scientific.” This was welcomed by industry group techUK whose chief executive, Julian David, said it would give companies “greater legal confidence” to conduct research and develop new technologies. Privacy campaigners, as you can imagine, aren’t too pleased.
Outstanding questions: But David said there were still “outstanding questions” on how some reforms will work in practice, including around cookie consent, and reporting unwanted calls. The bill increases fines for nuisance calls and texts to be either up to four percent of the offending company’s global turnover or £17.5 million, whichever is greater.
Asking permission: The government said the new bill would give organizations more clarity about when they can process personal data without direct consent. This is called legitimate consent, in the industry lingo, and gives companies access to your data without having to ask for it. Ministers hope this will reduce the number of cookie pop-ups people see online. Expect a lot of talk today about ending the cookie menace, though Morning Tech understands many businesses with both U.K. and EU customers (for whom the cookie consent forms still apply) will likely keep the dreaded banners because it’s too cumbersome to set up separate compliance functions for both sets of users.
Computer said no: DSIT’s briefings on the rules around automated decision-making, or complex algorithms that fuel everything from insurance approvals to social security benefits payments, have so far been pretty vague. But the government had already U-turned on proposals to entirely rip up article 22 of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which gives people a right to a human review of automated decisions, after the plans met fierce resistance at the consultation stage. We’ll have to wait till the bill is published to find out if the right to human review will be limited to higher risk decisions, such as job and loan applications.
Indy debate: Civil rights groups raised concerns that the original bill gave the Secretary of State too many powers, undermining the independence of regulators like the ICO. But the Information Commissioner John Edwards said it ensured “my office can continue to operate as a trusted, fair and independent regulator.” What is true is that the data bill does give DSIT an awful lot of powers to decide when people’s data can be accessed.
High-risk: The most eye-catching changes in the original bill, which remain, are limiting the numbers of businesses that need data protection officers and reducing data protection impact assessments and processing records to “high risk” cases. Businesses will be required to figure out for themselves if their processing activities are classed as “high risk” (i.e. health records), which is the biggest point of contention for civil society groups.
Eyes on Europe: As pointed out yesterday, one of the risks of the bill is it departs too far from GDPR, putting the U.K.’s data adequacy agreement with the EU at risk which ends in 2025. DSIT was keen to point out that this wouldn’t be the case, and word from Brussels is that no one really wants to open that can of worms until it’s really necessary.
Don’t look at US The U.K. is eager to move closer to its American cousins when it comes to data, especially via a new international data-sharing agreement peddled by Washington linked to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, a multilateral trade organization. But Rafi Azim-Khan, head of data protection at law firm Pillsbury, said it was a “mess” because big companies based in the U.K. would still have to comply with GDPR.
AI ON DRUGS: The Commons’ Science and Tech Committee turns its attention to the use of AI in drug discovery and medical research today. It is part of its ongoing inquiry into AI governance and starts at 9.30 a.m.
QUANTUM DEBATE: PICTFOR is hosting an online debate on the future of quantum computing in the U.K. at 11 a.m. It will be chaired by Darren Jones MP with experts from BT and UCL. Details here.
ICO BOSS SPEAKS: Information Commissioner John Edwards is speaking at the IAPP Data Protection Intensive conference at Aldgate at 9.30 a.m. Edwards is expected to talk about the ICO’s future priorities and how it is being more deliberate about the investigations it chooses.
**A message from Google: How much screen time is too much? What’s OK to share online? What should you do if you see something online that worries you? In partnership with Google, online safety experts at Internet Matters are helping families start important conversations about online safety by asking some simple questions. Learn more.**
|DSIT’S NEW FACES
LOPEZ LOOPED IN: After weeks of behind-the-scenes wrangling, No. 10 finally confirmed Julia Lopez will be dividing her time between a slimmed-down DCMS and DSIT. With a hefty legislative agenda, the new department had been angling for an extra minister – and after previously shepherding the data bill Lopez has long been the obvious choice to bolster the ranks.
Back to the future: More intriguing is Rishi Sunak’s pick for his House of Lords minister. Morning Tech can’t help but observe that there is a whiff of the ‘Department of the Future’ going back to the past. Jonathan Berry — aka Viscount Camrose — got his ticket to the top of the brand-new department thanks to a by-election with a 37-strong electorate of male hereditary peers.
How to become a minister: Berry was eligible to stand after inheriting the hereditary title which was initially given to his journalist-turned-publisher great-grandfather, the first Viscount Camrose, who built a stable of newspapers in the early part of last century, including the Sunday Times, the Financial Times and latterly the Daily Telegraph, which remained in his family until 1986. In his maiden speech, Berry described how he had shunned the family trade of journalism for a life of management and consultancy.
Pick me: In his 74-word manifesto to convince his fellow hereditaries to give him a seat, Berry said he wanted to offer his “expertise and energy to enhancing the public recognition of the House of Lords.”
Why him? No. 10 officials say there is “not really” a personal association with Sunak, suggesting a background in science and pharma was behind the choice. Berry is on Royal Holloway’s School of Life Science industry advisory board, according to his register of interests.
|AROUND THE WORLD
AWAY HUAWEI: After years of playing down the issue, the German government is getting serious about reducing the dependence of German mobile networks on Chinese equipment suppliers like Huawei, my colleagues in Berlin report.
INDIA: The government has a raft of legislation which could see it making life harder for Big Tech companies, according to a report in the India Business Law Journal.
META IN HER SIGHTS: Facebook and Instagram could find themselves unable to shuttle troves of European users’ data to the US in a few months, according to Ireland’s privacy chief Helen Dixon, my colleague Clothilde Goujard reports.
|INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
FOUNDERS: Women tech founders are getting more funding but are still massively underrepresented in the industry. Data from Dealroom, analyzed for DSIT, show tech startups with at least one woman co-founder raised £3.6 billion in venture capital funding last year, up from £2.9 billion in 2021. Fintech and energy were the biggest sectors.
Best place: Michelle Donelan said she wanted the U.K. to be the best place for anyone to start a business, but female founders are represented in only 9 percent of U.K. unicorns.
**Don’t forget to join Mathieu Pollet, POLITICO’s tech reporter, on March 21 at our POLITICO Live’s event “Telecoms drumbeat for the future of connectivity”. He will discuss what’s needed to make connectivity future-proof with top-notch speakers including Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, deputy CEO Europe, Orange; Phillip Malloch, director of economic and social policy, Meta; Konstantinos Masselos, chair 2023, BEREC; and Roberto Viola, director general, DG CNECT, European Commission. Register now.**
|ONLINE SAFETY BILL
SHOW US THE DATA: Five families who have lost children to online harms will meet with MPs and peers today to ramp up pressure for an amendment to the Online Safety Bill. The amendment, supported by Baroness Kidron, aims to force social media companies to give families and coroners access to data relevant to the death of a child.
‘Inhumane’: The five families, which include the father of Molly Russell, said: “The process of attempting to access data has been inhumane. In some cases, it has taken years, and we have been left in automated loops, speaking to online bots, as though we were contacting them about lost property.” Baroness Kidron added: “It should not be up to families already suffering the loss of a child to campaign for years, often unsuccessfully, to understand the circumstances of their child’s death.”
Cross-party: The amendment has cross-party support and DSIT Secretary of State Michelle Donelan signaled in the Daily Telegraph that she would back it too.
|MOVERS AND SHAKERS
BROADBAND JOB: DSIT is after a ‘Head of Digital Infrastructure Delivery Policy’ to support Project Gigabit. Deadline is March 22 and the salary is up to £59,371.
|BEFORE YOU GO
HORIZON HARDBALL: Michelle Donelan hinted a potentially hardball approach to negotiations over Britain’s association with the European Union’s Horizon project could be coming. Repeatedly quizzed about the timeline for a deal with Brussels on the U.K.’s association with the scientific research program, Donelan told MPs yesterday the terms would have to be “favorable for the U.K.” after the two-year delay, and “show that there’s value for money for the taxpayer.” The Financial Times and the Times have both been briefed that the PM is skeptical about the value of the initiative which is setting alarm bells ringing in the science community.
Busy few weeks: There were no firm timelines from the DSIT chief for various long-awaited strategies, but Donelan told MPs to expect the government’s artificial intelligence plans to be detailed in the “coming weeks,” while the semiconductor strategy would be coming “imminently.”
Throwing some shade: Chapeau to Labour’s Chi Onwurah who was on the frontbench for the opposition. Observing the large number of science and tech strategies published in recent years, she quipped that Britain deserved a framework “with a longer shelf life than a lettuce especially given the shortage of salad items under this government.” Has she been reading POLITICO’s Mark Scott who touched on that last week?
TIKTOK ON TRAFFICKING: TikTok said today it was introducing a new search intervention to warn people about the dangers of human trafficking. When someone searches for certain words or phrases, they will be directed to resources from the STOP THE TRAFFIK Group, with details about how to stay safe, get help and make a report.
Morning Tech wouldn’t happen without editor Oscar Williams.
**A message from Google: It’s a conversation parents and children both find tricky, but just talking about internet safety is a great way to get into good habits. In a 2022 report, online safety experts Internet Matters found that four out of five parents who say their family uses digital devices in a balanced way also feel confident their child knows how to stay safe online. Google and digital parenting specialists Parent Zone have put together a set of simple questions to help families chat about topics including screen time, sharing, and privacy. Backed by advice created with Internet Matters on everything from new social media apps to internet slang, we’re helping parents and children start important conversations about online safety. Learn more about Google’s tools to help families be safer online here.**