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Minister for digital is confident about maintaining smooth UK-EU data transfers in a post-Brexit world

Matt Hancock, the minister of state for digital at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, has told a Lords committee that he is confident that the UK will obtain and maintain ‘adequacy’ (parity between EU and UK data laws) after Brexit, to facilitate smooth data transfers.

Speaking on the 20th December, before the House of Commons vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill, Hancock told ministers, “cross-party support for the Data Protection Bill is important because there is a very strong degree of consensus around the aim – which is a high-quality data protection regime with unhindered free flow of data between the UK and adequate other countries, notably the EU upon exit.”

The Bill, announced in August, is designed to give UK citizens better control of their online data. It brings UK law in-line with the requirements of the GDPR, including penalties up to £17 billion. It will also:

  • Enable people to ask for their personal data held by companies to be erased;

  • Enable parents and guardians to give consent for their childrens’ data to be used;

  • Expand the definition of personal data to include IP addresses, internet cookies and DNA;

  • Make it easier and free for individuals to require an organisation reveal the personal data it holds on them; and

  • Create new criminal offences to deter organisations from intentionally or recklessly creating situations where someone could be identified from anonymised data.

However, the Data Protection Bill does not cover the sharing of information. To maintain cross-border data flows, the UK must be able to show that its data protection is equivalent to that enjoyed by European citizens.

A House of Lords inquiry (‘Brexit: the EU data protection package’) released a report in July about the implications for data transfers between the regions after Brexit, warning that any arrangement that increased friction could create a non-tariff trade barrier.

A key focus for the committee is how police and security data transfers will be treated, alongside commercial transfers. For example, ICO commissioner Elizabeth Denham recently recommended that both be dealt with in a single agreement.

Hancock said that could “see the attraction” in such an arrangement, but wasn’t able to comment further, because “we have not seen the EU’s negotiating mandate yet.”

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