Freedom Bill: Protecting our privacy?

The Protection of Freedom Bill introduces a number of measures to help protect our fundamental right to privacy, particularly creating new Commissioners to deal with biometrics and CCTV, but did not seek to address many of the long-standing complaints about current protections.

A number of helpful amendments have been tabled to probe the government’s position on the Information Commissioner and data protection laws. Tom Watson MP, who is on the Bill Committee, has so far suggested three crucial reforms supported by the Open Rights Group and other privacy organisations.

These essentially try to move the UK’s current Data Protection Act in line with EU law and the Data Protection Directive.

Implied or explicit consent

The first amendment removes the idea of “implied consent”, moving to “explicit consent”, as required by the Directive. This means users must show they know what they are signing up to when handing over their personal data.

Powers of entry

The second suggested change would give the Information Commissioner a power of entry to inspect data protection practices, equipment used to process data and fine processors found not to be complying with data protection laws.


The third amendment removes the need to show that actual personal or financial harm has been caused for a data protection offence to be committed, allowing for a wider notion of distress or ‘moral harm’, again in line with the DPD.

Other reforms needed

We hope Tom will be allowed to table further amendments, backed by Privacy International, No2ID, Archrights and Genewatch, asking for more fundamental reforms to deal with the fractured and multiplying number of regulators dealing with privacy, as well as a tidy-up of the definition of personal data. We’ll let you know if and when they’re published.