General Data Protection Regulation in the UK: Balancing Security and Rights

November 6, 2023

Nowadays, our relationship with data is very much like a delicate balance between its immense value and potential danger. We live in a time of unrestricted data collection, storage, and use, which leads to heightened concerns about privacy and security. The response to these concerns has been the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU, a legislative framework that came into force on 25 May 2018.

Even after the UK decided to leave the European Union, the GDPR framework remained an integral part of Britain’s policy to protect the data of its citizens. This unwavering commitment is reflected in the adaptation of GDPR principles into UK domestic legislation known as the Data Protection Act 2018, also referred to as the UK GDPR. 

To help you understand how data protection  is enforced in real life, this article will look at the UK GDPR in more detail.

What Is the General Data Protection Regulation?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European Union regulation introduced to strengthen data protection and privacy. Thanks to this law, EU citizens have much more control over their data. Namely, people can selectively provide their personal details and refuse to consent to the collection of data about their, say, gender or location. 

This regulation also imposes strict rules on organisations that collect and process such information. They cannot sell data as easily as they could before the GDPR was implemented. So, the GDPR includes provisions for obtaining explicit consent to process and use information about an individual, reporting data privacy breaches, and hefty fines for non-compliance. The regulation makes data protection and transparency a top priority.

The UK has taken a similar stance since Brexit, demonstrating a clear recognition of the importance of handling data securely and responsibly. The core provisions remain the same under the new domestic UK GDPR, including the right to access personal data and the right to be forgotten. 

However, recent developments in the government of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak indicate a move towards a modified version of the UK GDPR, which is a potentially new direction for data protection policy. Let’s see what could be changed and why.

GDPR in the Post-Brexit UK

The data protection debate in the UK is undergoing a marked change with the arrival of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Unlike previous intentions, when Michelle Donelan, the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, hinted at the possibility of replacing the GDPR, the UK government is now leaning towards revising its own version of the legislation, albeit with significant changes.

Importantly, the government appears to have retained the core idea of the GDPR — the principle of purpose limitation. The revised bill allows for some additional use of citizens’ data, but only where consent is not required, such as in the public interest. Brits will still have the right to request a review of significant automated decisions. In addition, UK companies operating in the EU may choose not to change their data protection practices to remain compliant with the EU GDPR.

However, there are concerning changes as well. In the newly introduced “Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill”:

  • The government plans to relax the rules for businesses to keep records and actively monitor data processing activities. This could impact their ability to respond to user requests for data in the case of a security breach.
  • The bill proposes to broaden the definition of scientific research. This will likely facilitate the reuse of data. However, the decision raises concerns about the potential for misuse in a less strict environment.
  • The government plans to confine the independence of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) by appointing a new board. Potentially, this will restrict the leadership and priorities of the ICO and undermine its autonomy. 

Edward Machin from Ropes & Gray said that while the expansion of research definition is a positive step, limiting the independence of the ICO causes concerns. This is worthy of attention because it can impact how the EU assesses the UK’s data protection standards. There must be an “essential equivalence”, which could be questioned after this change.

Despite these recent developments, the UK is expressing its commitment to maintaining high data protection standards and aligning with global norms. The bill aims at making data collection less difficult and expensive for UK businesses and charities, reducing obstacles to international trade, and simplifying the process of collecting data online.

UK GDPR: Security Measures and Rights

The UK GDPR requires personal data to be processed lawfully, transparently, and for specific purposes. Here are the rights afforded to individuals regarding their data:

  • the right to access their data
  • the right to rectify their data
  • the right to erase their data
  • the right to restrict the processing of their data

This significantly empowers consumers and gives them a certain degree of control over their digital footprints.

For businesses, GDPR compliance requires significant effort to ensure adequate security measures are in place. This includes regular data protection impact assessments and staff training. Failure to comply with GDPR requirements can result in hefty fines. Managers keep a close eye on regulatory compliance to avoid financial losses. On the positive side, GDPR compliance often builds customer trust.

The biggest issue in implementing GDPR is balancing individual rights, security, and business needs. The effectiveness of the strategy depends on how well this balance is achieved. And it’s an ongoing theme that evolves with technological advances and the global data landscape. The UK’s data protection system will need to improve, as emerging technologies such as AI, big data, and the Internet of Things (IoT) present new challenges for data processing and require dynamic regulation.

Another important aspect is the regulation of international data flows. After Brexit, the UK must navigate data transfer mechanisms, especially with countries with strict legislation. It is critical to ensure compliance with the UK’s GDPR to secure transfers while facilitating international trade and cooperation.

Safeguard Your Finances with Payrow

The changing data protection landscape in the UK, especially following the introduction of GDPR and Brexit, emphasises the need to strengthen security across all sectors, including financial services. 

Payrow is committed to improving defences against increasingly sophisticated financial fraud. Whilst we prioritise strengthening security, maintaining operational efficiency and adhering to strict data protection standards in the UK remain our focus. 

At Payrow, we can navigate the changing UK data protection landscape and meet global standards. Our focus is on delivering secure and efficient financial services and protecting customer data. If a company owner decides to do business with us, they can be sure that their money is protected.

Secure your finances with Payrow! 

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