All Change: Indications for the Future of Data Protection Law | Fieldfisher
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All Change: Indications for the Future of Data Protection Law

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United Kingdom

The new Labour Government may bring significant changes to data sharing in the UK with implications for data protection law and regulation. Whilst precise details and timescales are unknown, the promises are set out below.

Data Protection Regulation generally

The Labour manifesto 2024 is largely silent about data protection reforms, and the previous government's Data Protection and Digital Information Bill seems to be a thing of the past. There is however reference to increased data sharing in education, life sciences, R&D, and procurement. For example, in the education sector Labour commits to increasing data sharing across multiple services with a single unique identifier and coroners will have more powers to access information held by technology companies after a child’s death.

The commitment within the manifesto to strengthening connections with Europe, and acknowledging the importance of international laws, whilst still outside of the EU, would suggest that any data protection changes are likely to be sympathetic to current and future European legislation.

There is a commitment to shaking up regulation generally. It states that regulators are currently ill-equipped to deal with the dramatic development of new technologies. As such, they  announced a new Regulatory Innovation Office which will "help regulators update regulation, speed up approval timelines, and co-ordinate issues that span existing boundaries".  

AI

There is a commitment via an industrial strategy to support the development of the AI sector and remove barriers to new datacentres which are vital in the industry. Crucially, they promise new binding regulation which follows the European model and varies from the previous UK proposals for sector-led regulation. It is said that this is needed for the "safe development and use of AI " by the handful of companies developing the most powerful AI models. There is a commitment to ban the creation of sexually explicit deepfakes.

Health and Life Sciences

Labour acknowledges the revolution taking place in data and life sciences and the potential to transform healthcare. Its proposals within its life sciences plan include several data-related initiatives. It intends to digitise the Red Book record of children's health and revolutionise the NHS app with increased data and data sharing in relation to medicine, appointments, health needs, performance information on local services, notifications of vaccinations, health checks, medical guidelines for the treatment, and participation and information on clinical trials. The intention is to harness the power of technologies like AI to transform the speed and accuracy of diagnostic services. It indicates multiple plans to drive innovation and speed up regulation for new technology and medicines.  

Research

The manifesto indicates that a new National Data Library will be created to bring together existing research programmes and help deliver data-driven public services. Short funding cycles for key R&D institutions will be scrapped in favour of ten-year budgets that allow meaningful partnerships and there is a promise of working with universities to support spinouts, and with industry to ensure start-ups have the access to finance they need to grow. Although details are not provided. There is also an indication of simplification of the procurement process to support innovation and reduce micromanagement.  The commitments do not seem to go as far as the new European Health Data Space created in Europe promising to revolutionise health research access.

Online Safety

It appears that the provisions of the new Online Safety Act in the UK will be brought forward by the new government as quickly as possible, along with further undefined measures to keep everyone safe online, particularly when using social media.

Data Act

There appear to be no direct promises to enact anything similar to Europe's Data Act which shakes up data sharing for products and medical devices. The only directly-related provisions in the UK were contained in the now defunct Data Protection and Digital Information Bill. It remains to be seen whether anything like this gets proposed later.

Fieldfisher's data and privacy team will keep you updated as promises develop into concrete proposals.

Areas of Expertise

Data and Privacy