The “immigration exemption” undermines everyone’s data rights

When the “immigration exemption” became law as part of the 2018 Data Protection Act, it threatened the data rights of all UK residents, including British citizens. Open Rights Group and the3million responded by taking the Government to court.

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The Data Protection Act must protect data rights, not weaken them

We argued before the UK High Court that the exemption, used by the Home Office to deny people access to their personal data, is far too broad and imprecise. Administrative errors are notoriously common in immigration cases, but if residents can’t access their own data they’ll have little chance of overturning mistakes.

In October 2019 the judge ruled against our challenge and we are now preparing to appeal. Beyond the ruling, our legal challenge succeeded in pushing the Home Office to reveal it used the exemption in 60% of immigration-related requests for data. The Home Office also pledged to inform all future data subjects whenever they use the exemption. 

Despite these transparency wins, the exemption remains in law. Its open-ended language too easily allows for abuse in the wrong hands. Our work here is not done.

Open Rights Group’s work against the immigration exemption began in early 2018 with a campaign to remove it from the Data Protection Bill 2018.

The work on the immigration exemption has led to the new Immigration, Data and Technology project.

The Story So Far

Immigration sector privacy concerns

As part of ORG’s work in the area of immigration we have consulted 30 organisations on their priorities and needs.
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What is at stake with the immigration exemption legal challenge?

The immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act 2018 will remove key data protection rights for everyone in the United Kingdom.
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The Data Protection Bill’s Immigration Exemption must go

The government has introduced a sweeping “immigration exemption” in Schedule 2, Paragraph 4.
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