Tougher fines for firms making nuisance calls are at the centre of new data law proposals published by the Government. Reducing the number of pop-up cookie banners on websites is also a central plank of the proposed legislation.
As part of plans for the Data Reform Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech, ministers have proposed replacing pop-up cookie alerts on websites with an opt-out system where users set cover-all data permissions in their web browser settings. This would remove the need to consent to cookies on each site they visit.
Under the proposals in the new Bill, fines for nuisance calls and texts will rise from the current maximum of £500,000 to either four per cent of global turnover or £17.5 million, whichever is greater. As part of Government plans to cut back on data protection “red tape”, the Bill will remove requirements for smaller businesses to have a data protection officer or undertake impact assessments where the data risk is low.
The Government said the aim of the Bill was to revamp the UK’s data laws for the digital age. It added that it aims to take advantage of the UK having left the European Union by streamlining the aspects of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which was introduced in the EU and the UK four years ago.
The proposals have been published as part of an official response to a consultation on reforming data laws in the UK. Culture 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. Outside of the EU 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 EU legislation.”
The Bill also proposes a restructuring of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), including giving new powers to the Culture Secretary to approve ICO statutory codes and guidance. Information Commissioner John Edwards said he supports the “ambition of these reforms”.
He said: “I am pleased to see the Government has taken our concerns about independence on board. Data protection law needs to give people confidence to share their information to use the products and services that power our economy and society.
“The proposed changes will ensure my office can continue to operate as a trusted, fair and impartial regulator, and enable us to be more flexible and target our action in response to the greatest harms.”
Furthermore, the Government said the Bill will simplify the legal requirements around research by more clearly defining the scope of scientific research so that scientists can more easily use data as part of their work. The Government said the proposals will make it easier for researchers to have clarity about when they can obtain user consent to collect or use data for research purposes.
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