Policy Briefing – Data Protection and Digital Information (No.2) Bill Second Reading

Briefing for MPs on Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill. Published by Open Rights, a non-profit company limited by Guarantee, registered in England
and Wales no. 05581537. The Society of Authors, 24 Bedford Row, London, WC1R 4EH. (CC BY-SA 3.0). For further information please contact Mariano Delli Santi or Abigail Burke.


Briefing on the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill
April 2023

The Data Protection and Digital Information (DPDI) Bill will have its second reading in
Parliament on April 17 2023, after months of delays, internal civil service confusion,
and strong civil society opposition.

In an ever-digitalised and data-driven world, existing data protection laws provide
much needed legal protection for the public against predatory commercial practices
and the increased use of algorithmic decision-making across public services, law
enforcement and employment.

The government has an opportunity to strengthen the UK’s data protection regime
post Brexit. However, it is instead setting the country on a dangerous path that
undermines trust, furthers economic instability, and erodes fundamental rights.
The DPDI Bill will weaken your constituents’ data protection rights, water down
corporate accountability mechanisms, empower the Secretary of State with
undemocratic controls over data protection, and negatively impact the economy. We
highlight key concerns across these four areas:

Weakened data protection rights

New barriers to exercising data protection rights (Clause 7)
• Organisations can deny or charge a fee to individuals for the right to access
information, the right to erasure and the right to object to processing if they
decide these requests are ‘’vexatious or excessive’. This is vague, ill-defined and
open to interpretation and will lead to more requests being refused. Charging a
fee creates a barrier for many people, particularly those on lower incomes.
Lower protections around AI and automated decision-making (Clause 11)

• The Bill changes current rules that prevent companies and the government
from making solely automated decisions about individuals that could have legal
or other significant effects on their lives. Under proposals in the Bill,
organisations will be able to use automated decision-making in these cases
unless it is based on special category data (such as health data or political
beliefs). It will also be more difficult to seek remedies or redress against unfair
decisions (for example to challenge A-level grades or unfair dismissals).
1It will take longer to resolve complaints (Clauses 8, 39, 40)

• The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will have the discretion to dismiss
complaints, unless individuals have already complained to an organisation and
company first.

• A new loophole will allow companies and organisations to reset the one month
time limit for responding to individuals’ requests (such as access to data or
erasure) by asking further information.

• UK residents seeking justice against an infringement of their rights will have to
wait longer for a rights’ request to be processed and undergo a privatised
complaint procedure with the offending organisation before being able to lodge a
complaint with the ICO.

• The combination of these changes means that complaints could routinely take
20 months or longer to resolve.
Less public scrutiny and accountability

Weakened accountability framework (Clauses 14, 15, 17 and 18)

• The Bill removes requirements to keep Records of Processing Operations, Data
Protection Impact Assessments, and Data Protection Officers, and replaces them
with less robust requirements that only need be fulfilled in limited

• The Bill also removes the requirement to consult with people affected by high
risk data processing, thus making these assessments less reliable and objective.
Reduced accountability for businesses

• The Bill makes it easier for companies and organisations to circumvent legal
data protection requirements by:
◦ Misclassifying personal data as anonymous data (Clause 1);
◦ Allowing personal data to be used for commercial purposes under the guise
of “research purposes” (Clauses 2, 3 and 9);
◦ Removing cookies’ consent requirements for online tracking and
2personalised advertising (Clause 79).Undemocratic expansion of
government powers

Politicising the ICO (Clauses 28 and 31)

• The ICO plays a key role in the oversight of the government’s handling of data so
it is vital that it is completely independent from government. However, the Bill
will give the Secretary of State new powers to issue instructions to the ICO and to
interfere with how it functions. For instance, the government will be given the
power to issue a statement of strategic priorities to the ICO and require the
regulator to respond in writing as to how it will address them. Additionally, the
ICO will have to seek the approval of the UK Government before issuing Codes of

Lowered protections for personal data transferred abroad (Schedule 5)

• The Secretary of State will be able to approve international transfers to countries
with weak data protection and a lack of enforceable rights and effective
remedies. In particular, the new “data protection test” for international transfers:
◦ Does not have to consider the impact that foreign legal frameworks
concerning defence, national security, criminal law and the access of public
authorities to personal data, will have on the protection of UK personal data;
◦ Does not require an independent and effective supervisory authority in the
country where data is being transferred, or the availability of a judicial redress;
◦ Gives arbitrary discretion to the UK government to consider, as a justification
for authorising international data transfers, “any matter which the Secretary
of State considers relevant”.
Expanding government control over data (Clauses 5 and 6)

• The Secretary of State will be given additional powers to introduce (without
meaningful democratic scrutiny) new grounds for processing data and new
exemptions that would legitimise data uses regardless of the impact this may
have on individuals. The list of exemptions is overly broad and vague. For
instance, it includes “crime detection”, “national security” or “disclosures to
public authorities”. The UK government is given broad powers to amend this list
at any time and without meaningful limits to their discretion.
3Negative impact on the UK’s economy

Endangering EU adequacy

• The Bill will greatly weaken people’s data protection rights and open new
avenues for the UK to transfer data to countries with poor data protection,
creating a scenario where the data of EU citizens could be laundered through the
UK to countries that the EU does not have an agreement with. These changes are
raising red flags in Europe and jeopardize the UK’s current adequacy agreement.
Conservative estimates found that the loss of the adequacy agreement would
cost 1 to 1.6 billion pounds in legal fees alone.1 This figure does not include the
cost resulting from disruption of digital trade and investments.
Harming UK businesses

• Numerous businesses have spoken out about the negative impacts of the Bill’s
proposals.2 Some startups are already fleeing the UK in anticipation of this
reform.3 Navigating multiple data protection regimes will significantly increase
costs and create bureaucratic headaches for businesses. Just as many businesses
have adjusted to GDPR and put proper protocols into place, they will again be
asked to adjust to a vastly different regime. Additionally, a separate data
protection regime creates barriers between the UK and its closest trading partner.
For more information on this Bill, get in touch with

mariano@openrightsgroup.org and abigail@openrightsgroup.org.

About Open Rights Group (ORG): Founded in 2005, Open Rights Group (ORG) is a UK-based digital
campaigning organisation working to protect individuals’ rights to privacy and free speech online. . ORG
has been following the UK government’s proposed reforms to data protection since their inception. In
June 2022, we organised an open letter signed by a coalition of over 30 organisations that highlighted
the failure of the DCMS to properly engage with civil society groups about the proposed reforms, and in
March 2023, we delivered a letter signed by 25 CSOs to Michelle Donelan, highlighting our serious
concerns with the Government’s draft legislation.
Imprint: Published by Open Rights, a non-profit company limited by Guarantee, registered in England
and Wales no. 05581537. The Society of Authors, 24 Bedford Row, London, WC1R 4EH. (CC BY-SA 3.0).
1 See
The cost of data inadequacy at: https://neweconomics.org/2020/11/the-cost-of-data-inadequacy
2 See, for instance,
15 CEOs of SaaS Companies open letter to Michelle Donelan, at:
3 See
Back to the EU at: https://adambird.com/posts/back-to-eu/