Government must pledge to uphold data privacy

The Open Rights Group have today - International Data Protection Day – called on all MPs to pledge to uphold data privacy standards.

In a letter to all MPs, ORG explains data protection in the UK is under threat following claims earlier this year by government sources that they wish to diverge from European privacy standards. (1)

However, moving away from European data protection and accepting weak US-style privacy laws - would mean accepting very low standards and undermining trust in the technology, finance and health sectors.

In December last year, a “government source” told the Times that the UK would want to diverge from European data protection standards. (2) That same month in the Times, economists highlighted the desires of the US to be able to access patient healthcare information under any future trade agreement. (3)

The likelihood of a loose trade agreement with the EU will mean the UK will come under pressure to dilute data privacy standards, especially to allow US companies to access UK markets without high levels of data protection.

The letter from ORG explains to MPs that:

“There will be pressure from many companies, such as insurance, bank credit agencies and some large Internet companies, to lower standards. Pressure will come from the US government, who will want to make "data flows" more important than "data protection" in future trade agreements.

“Data protection matters to your constituents. It protects their sensitive personal data such as health data from being exploited, it seeks to protect them online and give them more control over who can use their personal data. In 2019, a Eurobarometer survey found 73% of people in the United Kingdom were concerned about not having complete control over the information they provide online.”

The letter asks for commitments from the government that:

  1. Data Protection standards will continue to apply across all industries, protecting personal data from abuse;

  2. Trade agreements will not be used to dilute, undermine or circumvent existing data protection standards.

The letter concludes that:

Now that we are facing an uncertain future it is more important than ever for the United Kingdom to commit to respecting the right to privacy.

The letter was delivered to all MPs in the House of Commons earlier today, and included an offer to meet to discuss privacy advocates concerns in more detail.

ENDS

Contact: Jim Killock ‭+44 20 7096 1079‬ / press@openrightsgroup.org

Notes to the editor

(1) The full text of the letter is available at: https://www.openrightsgroup.org/about/reports/data-protection-day-letter-to-members-of-parliament.

(2) See https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/britain-on-collision-course-with-eu-over-trade-rules-in-brexit-talks-dj2xrhm7z

(3) See https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/us-tech-firms-want-access-to-10bn-nhs-health-data-zpqwkj6pp