16th September 2020
On 9 September 2020 the Government published its new national data strategy for consultation. This follows EU policy reviews in the key areas of cloud computing and AI along with the publication of its own data strategy in February of this year, raising important questions about alignment with the bloc post-Brexit.
In the midst of what is being described as the “fourth industrial revolution”, many will be interested to know how the UK’s strategy will fit with an increased national reliance on technology growing importance of data in Artificial Intelligence solutions, Brexit and the recent decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Schrems II. (Read our article on Schrems II here). In particular, if data really is “the driving force of the world’s modern economies”, then how can we ensure that we harness those opportunities while still protecting individual rights and freedoms? Indeed, with the data economy now accounting for 4% of our national GDP, can we really afford not to?
In this article we examine the Government’s proposals for the national data strategy, including reading between the lines on what it’s likely to mean for business.
One of the key aspects of the new strategy is the facilitation of international data flows, a topic which has assumed added significance in light of recent legal and political developments. With Brexit negotiations appearing to be at an impasse and the UK’s status as an adequate jurisdiction hanging in the balance, the ability to receive EEA originating data after the transition period without additional safeguards is in jeopardy.
At the same time, judicial abolition of the Privacy Shield framework by the CJEU in Schrems II is already causing complications in the transatlantic data corridor. Many UK based organisations are scrambling to implement additional safeguards to accommodate transfers of personal data to the US, but there’s even a question as to whether continued reliance on those established safeguards will be possible going forward.
Clearly, regulatory uncertainty is bad for business. The ability to move data across jurisdictional lines has become increasingly integral to business decisions, affecting not just relationships with external service providers and business partners but also intragroup data sharing. In a truly global world driven by technical solutions and in a nation now boasting the largest data market in Europe, the Government appear to have accepted that complacency here could be disastrous.
Consequently, the Government has made some initial indications of the framework it expects to rely on in order to ensure that key data flows remain uninterrupted. While we can presumably expect more detail to follow in the coming months, the Government appears to be eyeing the following solutions to data localization constraints:
Much of the new strategy is designed to encourage positive private sector development, along with hoped improvements to data-driven trade, innovation and the economy. However, data use within the public sector also appears set for change. In particular, one of the positive consequences of the pandemic has been a period of forced modernisation for public authorities and government institutions in the ways that they use data at their disposal.
Firstly, more advanced solutions driven by AI have found a valued role in the pandemic, helping to predict mutations in the virus’s structure, assess the viability of effective treatments and identify the best candidates for clinical trials. With such high stakes, we can expect to see increased use of such tools moving forwards on a more sector-agnostic basis.
Secondly, the importance of having access to accurate health data and the ability to usefully employ those data cannot be underestimated. Having seen the potential benefits of more efficient, targeted usage of health data, the Government is looking at the ways in which legal barriers apply to the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries with a view to lifting perceived and existing barriers.
As a result, the Government’s proposals identify the following means of improvement across the public sector:
Whether you operate in the private or public sector, the new National Data Strategy is likely to bring changes in the way organisations process data and share it with others. While the strategy remains under consultation and may be subject to revision, the clear indication is that the UK will be looking to adapt the regulatory framework that has been in place since the implementation of GDPR. In particular, the free movement of data internationally appears to have become inextricably linked with the UK’s trading position and any arrangements that will be reached over the coming months. Meanwhile, the public sector can expect to see significant changes as part of a Government led process to replace legacy systems with future-proofed infrastructure and to “build on the permissive approach to data sharing”.
Alongside regulatory developments related to the processing of personal data, the increased value and application of non-personal data is also likely to be a key driver of change moving forwards. In a sector dominated by corporate behemoths, any governance regimes applying to technology providers and digital markets will have to be capable of carefully balancing sensitive issues, perhaps most notably related to derivative economic benefit, competition and data ethics. In addition and in light of the impact of Covid, the harnessing of data and technology-based tools in preventing societal harm and injustice also appears to be firmly set on the agenda.
For more information about the implications of the UK National Data Strategy on your organisation or for any advice on how you can stay ahead of the curve, then please don’t hesitate to contact one of our specialists who would be glad to assist you.