Open Rights Group Says UK Data Reform Bill Would ‘Endanger Consumers’

By Chris Summers
Chris Summers
Chris Summers
Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.
June 17, 2022 Updated: June 17, 2022

The Open Rights Group, a digital campaign group with 20,000 members, has criticised the British government’s new Data Reform Bill, saying it will “endanger consumers” and make it easier for businesses to “spy” on people through their computers.

The Data Reform Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, would replace pop-up cookie alerts on websites with an opt-out system allowing users to cover all data permissions in their web browser settings, removing the need to consent every time a user visits a new website.

It would also increase fines for nuisance calls, texts, and other data breaches.

Unveiling the details on Friday, Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “Today is an important step in cementing post-Brexit Britain’s position as a science and tech superpower. Our new Data Reform Bill will make it easier for businesses and researchers to unlock the power of data to grow the economy and improve society, but retains our global gold standard for data protection.”

But Mariano delli Santi, a data protection campaigner with the Open Rights Group, said in an email to The Epoch Times: “These irresponsible proposals will endanger consumers and make it easy for businesses to spy on you, build machines to judge you and wait for you to work it out.”

The legislation, which is part of a government attempt to reduce data protection bureaucracy, would remove the requirement for smaller businesses to have a data protection officer or undertake impact assessments.

The government said the aim was to update the UK’s data laws for the digital age and take advantage of Britain having left the European Union by reducing the burden of some aspects of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which was introduced in 2018.

Dorries, who is also behind the Online Safety Bill, said: “Outside of the E.U. we can ensure people can control their personal data, while preventing businesses, researchers, and civil society from being held back by a lack of clarity and cumbersome E.U. legislation.”

But delli Santi warned discrimination against minority groups would be made easier and it would be harder for people to challenge the government or big corporations.

“The A level results fiasco will be repeated again and again,” he said, referring to the botched grading of A level papers in 2020 that was blamed on a standardisation algorithm.

Delli Santi also warned the British government risked “a massive and expensive rupture with the E.U., making data transfers costly for UK businesses, costing jobs during an economic downturn.”

The Bill proposes restructuring the Information Commissioner’s Office and giving the Culture Secretary new powers to approve ICO statutory codes and guidance.

Information Commissioner John Edwards said he supported the “ambition of these reforms.”

Chris Summers is a UK-based journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a particular interest in crime, policing and the law.