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The Government’s newly announced “data reform” programme aims to “boost innovation, economic growth and protect the public”.

A public consultation will be run on proposed changes to the UK’s “data landscape”, which would involve a new governance structure for the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), bringing its operations more in line with those of other regulators such as the Competition and Markets Authority, Financial Conduct Authority and Ofcom. At the same time, increased enforcement powers would be given to deal with the sending of nuisance calls and text messages.

The announcement comes shortly after the news that the government’s preferred candidate to succeed Elizabeth Denham as Information Commissioner is the current New Zealand Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards (who appeared before the DCMS committee earlier this week in a pre-appointment hearing).

Less clearly, the government announcement suggests that the ICO will be empowered to “champion sectors and businesses that are using personal data in new, innovative and responsible ways to benefit people’s lives”.

Commenting on the announcement, Adam Rose, Head of Mishcon de Reya’s Data Practice, said:

“This is a further gesture from the Government suggesting a willingness to push the boundaries of our recently granted data protection adequacy agreement with the EU. However, behind the bold words there is little detail so far to indicate much in the way of concrete proposals or changes to the underlying law. And that’s no surprise, given that our data protection laws are already based on international (as well as European) frameworks that go back forty years or so. There is a good argument that those frameworks, and those existing laws, already allow for the data innovation and economic growth which the Government is so keen to encourage.”

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