The draft Data Protection Bill, which received its second reading in the House of Lords yesterday, will combine the EU General Data Protection Regulation and the so-called Police Directive into one legislative package, which makes the bill ‘incredibly hard to read and even harder to understand’.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Labour) said that we can expect many amendments in the House of Lords. He called for a “far more ambitious set of regulatory structures for data capitalism” saying that “The big tech companies have for far too long got away with the conceit that they are simply neutral platforms. They are not. They are active media and information companies, and their stock market valuations are based on the data flows they generate and how they can be monetised. With that role surely should come broader societal responsibilities, but the Bill does not go into this area at all.”
He noted that the GDPR itself is not printed in the Bill and was concerned that this is a bad precedent in light of Brexit. “There is a gap in procedures – no usual evidence taking sessions this time. I suggest that the Committee looks carefully at the GDPR and this Bill. It would help the House to understand what is going to happen if we leave the common market, how can we secure unhindered data flows?”
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara said that we are facing a legislative nightmare. “The DP bills fails to say how it will ensure data flows. Adequacy is the only card to play but how, as the bill does not address this? UK surveillance arrangements may jeopardise adequacy.”
He said that a single piece of legislation is welcome but there are areas to address such as social media companies’ impact on elections, and fake news.
Lord McNally (Lib Dem), a former Justice Minister, said that the Information Commissioner has already warned that adequacy might be difficult to achieve in the current timetable. He said that there is a need to test the derogations in this draft bill – this point would be pursued further in committee. He stated that the ICO needs to be adequately funded and staffed.
Referring to cross border data transfers by intelligence agencies, Lord McNally said: “The elephant in the room always in discussing a Bill such as this is how we get the balance right between protecting the freedoms and civil liberties that underpin our functioning liberal democracy while protecting that democracy from the various threats to our safety and well-being.”