Today, the UK Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport ("DCMS") has made a series of announcements shedding light on the UK's post-Brexit data strategy. The announcements – which emphasize the importance of international transfers of personal data to global trade – include as follows:

  1. A Press Release, providing an overview of the UK government's plans as well as some additional texture to the other documents and announcements below.

The Press Release outlines the first countries, jurisdictions and territories that the UK government will prioritize when making 'adequacy decisions' (formal decisions made in connection with third countries, jurisdictions and territories, which permit the free flow of personal data to those countries, jurisdictions and territories). They include: the United States, Australia, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, the Dubai International Finance Centre and Colombia. DCMS also confirms that future partnerships with India, Brazil, Kenya and Indonesia are being prioritized.

The Press Release also announces an upcoming consultation on a possible update of the UK's data protection laws, noting that: "In the coming weeks the government will launch a consultation on changes to break down barriers to innovative and responsible uses of data so it can boost growth, especially for startups and small firms, speed up scientific discoveries and improve public services. The consultation is expected to include the role of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) [...]".

Such announcements come at an interesting time, given that the UK has only recently been awarded an adequacy decision by the European Union ("EU"). The EU's decision to grant adequacy to the UK was based in part on the fact that the UK's data protection system is aligned with that of the EU.

  1. Guidance on the UK's Approach to International Data Transfers.

The Guidance includes a Mission Statement entitled "International data transfers: building trust, delivering growth and firing up innovation", which sets out the UK's pro-growth approach to striking new adequacy agreements and implementing transfer tools. The Mission Statement in particular explains the various phases of work which the UK government will carry out when determining adequacy, and includes:

  • Manual Template – a document containing questions that guide the collection of relevant information relating to a country's level of data protection. The questions are based on key principles of the safeguards in the UK GDPR, while recognizing that countries protect personal data in different ways. Answers to the questions – together with further information and analysis – provide relevant detail and evidence of how effectively personal data is protected in legislation and in practice.
  • Some Manual Guidance providing users with a guide to filling out the Manual Template.
  • A map of current adequacy decisions and current UK Priorities for new adequacy decisions (as outlined above).
  1. An announcement on the Launch of an International Data Transfers Expert Council.

DCMS has announced the launch of the International Data Transfers Expert Council to support the UK in championing the international flow of personal data. DCMS is calling for experts for the Council.

The Council will consist of 15 leading individuals, drawn from academia, industry and civil society. The members will provide independent and expert advice, of both a technical and tactical nature, which will enable the government to deliver on its mission to champion the international flow of data.

  1. An announcement on the UK government's preferred candidate for the position of UK Information Commissioner.

The UK government's preferred candidate, John Edwards, is currently New Zealand's Privacy Commissioner.

The DCMS Press Release notes that "he will be empowered to go beyond the regulator's traditional role of focusing only on protecting data rights, with a clear mandate to take a balanced approach that promotes further innovation and economic growth."

If assigned to the role, Mr. Edwards will take over the reins from Elizabeth Denham, who was appointed UK Information Commissioner in July 2016.

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