UK’s new data watchdog John Edwards faces GDPR challenge

Britain’s new Information and facts Commissioner, John Edwards, who started work now, takes up the post at a time when the nation’s facts polices stand at a crossroads. Edwards has a status as a staunch critic of Major Tech, but firms may be far more interested in his stance on GDPR, as the United kingdom governing administration has instructed that forthcoming facts guidelines may diverge from the EU facts security regime.

John Edwards is the UK’s new Information and facts Commissioner and firms will be interested in his stance on GDPR. (Image courtesy ICO)

Edwards succeeds Elizabeth Denham, whose phrase as Information and facts Commissioner ended previous yr. The New Zealander is a barrister by track record, and leaves the place of New Zealand Privateness Commissioner, which he experienced held for eight a long time, to get up his new role. He experienced formerly worked as a plan adviser to the New Zealand governing administration.

“Privacy is a suitable not a privilege,” stated Edwards on his appointment. “My role is to work with those to whom we entrust our facts so they are equipped to respect our privacy with relieve while however reaping the gains of facts-pushed innovation. I also want to empower individuals to fully grasp and affect how they want their facts to be utilized, and to make it simple for individuals to access solutions if items go incorrect.”

How will John Edwards vary from his predecessor?

Denham, who experienced been in post considering the fact that 2016, attained blended outcomes in her time in ICO, suggests Jonathan Kirsop, spouse at regulation firm Pinsent Masons. He suggests Denham was noticed by some as far more eager on “chasing headlines than implementing powerful regulation,” and details to the ICO‘s patchy enforcement file less than her leadership. Indeed, big fines handed out to British Airways and Marriott Hotels for facts breaches have been subsequently scaled again noticeably, from £183m to £20m for BA, and £99m to £18.3m for Marriott, on appeal.

“There have been a amount of successes in the Denham regime, and the conventional of assistance and consultative paperwork has enormously enhanced, these kinds of as the facts-sharing code and the recent session on international transfers,” Kirsop suggests. “But numerous will hope John Edwards will return to a far more regular and proportionate enforcement regime and emphasis on concerns of worry to individuals even though implementing the pragmatism and consultative tactic that the ICO has very long been known for.”

In New Zealand, Edwards garnered a status as a staunch critic of Major Tech. He labelled Fb “morally bankrupt pathological liars who allow genocide” in tweets pursuing the attack on a Christchurch mosque in 2019, which observed fifty one individuals killed. Footage of the attack was streamed live on Fb.

Edwards subsequently deleted the tweets, and Kirsop believes he is not likely to get a powerful line on Fb and its rivals in his new role, provided the government’s ambition to make post-Brexit Britain a global tech hub. “As a United kingdom governing administration appointment, at a time when it is consulting on opportunity reforms to facts security regulation to guidance technological know-how and innovation, it would look not likely he will act in a way which is noticed as much too restrictive or punitive to the technological know-how sector,” Kirsop suggests. “That stated, he does not seem likely to be a governing administration ‘puppet’, with a powerful legal track record ahead of his experience as a regulator and a observe file of standing up for privacy rights.”

John Edwards’ GDPR problem

Indeed, Britain’s facts security regulation reforms are likely to be a important item on Edwards’ to-do checklist. As noted by Tech Check, the governing administration is wanting to go absent from GDPR, the European conventional for facts security, to what it believes will be a far more agile regime. Proponents of the adjust, together with chancellor Rishi Sunak, consider the United kingdom can established its possess facts legal guidelines with no endangering the facts adequacy settlement it has with the European Union, which enables facts to stream involving providers in the United kingdom and EU. If the EU feels the United kingdom governing administration plans do not defend the facts of its citizens adequately, then the adequacy settlement could be revoked.

“Edwards’ achievements will lie in finding the suitable harmony involving the UK’s desire to develop into a far more organization-friendly and facts-pushed modern overall economy while retaining the legacy large h2o mark of EU laws,” suggests Daniel Jones, affiliate at Taylor Vinters regulation firm. “His to start with test will be to locate the suitable line with the UK’s tactic to international transfers together with the updating of the conventional contractual clauses and the opportunity danger of getting rid of the UK’s adequacy choice which has largely been granted owing to the mirroring of the GDPR.”

Kirsop agrees. “While welcoming some of the proposals [about facts regulation reform], numerous firms will be eager to maintain adequacy and hope he will be strong in pushing again on just about anything which may threaten this,” he suggests.

One particular area of opportunity pressure fears how the United kingdom enables individual facts to be despatched to other international locations not in just the EU, these kinds of as the Usa, provides Paul Knight, a spouse at regulation firm Mills & Reeve. “The United kingdom requirements to update the recent tactic, and the ICO consulted on this toward the close of 2021,” Knight suggests. “Plus we know the governing administration is eager on global ‘data partnerships’ with the Usa, Australia, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, the Dubai Worldwide Finance Centre and Colombia.”

He provides: “UK firms should glance out for new facts security agreement clauses and ‘transfer effect assessments’ staying introduced by the new Information and facts Commissioner in the coming months for international transfers of individual facts. But, provided the place with the EU, these may not be radically different from what is in place at the second.”

News editor

Matthew Gooding is information editor for Tech Check.