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UK data bill ‘favours big business’, says Open Rights Group

Written by Wed 9 Aug 2023

The Open Rights Group has criticised the UK data bill for undermining individual control over data in favour of big business.

The proposed Data Protection and Digital Information Bill changes rules to subject access requests (SARs), which allows individuals to request copies of personal information held by an organisation.

These requests could be rejected or individuals could be charged a fee if the request was ‘manifestly unfounded or excessive’. The rule changes in the proposed Bill adapt the wording to ‘vexatious or excessive’.

Abigail Burke, Policy Manager for Data Protection at Open Rights Group, said this would lower the threshold and lead to an increase in refusals.

“There’s already a huge power imbalance between large corporations and the government, and individuals, so when everyday workers or other people are trying to get an understanding of how companies or their employer are using their data, subject access requests are critical,” said Burke in a Guardian report.

The Bill reportedly expands the situations in which AI and other automated decision-making was permitted in these SAR refusals.

“You can’t really exercise your data rights if you don’t even know what data is being held and how it’s being used, so the changes are very concerning to us. Subject access requests to the police and other national security bodies have been really important for allowing people to understand how their data is being shared,” added Burke.

Burke also elaborated that the Bill gives powers to the Secretary of State to direct the Information Commissioner’s Office ‘without proper parliamentary oversight’.

“It greatly weakens your control over and access to your own data, making it very difficult to understand when and how automated decision-making is being used to make important decisions about your own life.

“It is basically the Government choosing big business and shady technology companies over the interests of everyday people,” said Burke.

In response, the Government does not believe there will be a significant increase in SARs being refused. A spokesperson said the Open Rights Group’s claims were ‘misleading and in several cases factually inaccurate’ and that the Bill will ‘provide greater clarity about how companies handle people’s personal data’.

“It will also enshrine a new right for people to complain directly to an organisation about how their data has been handled – providing even more protection for customers and users. It will strengthen the enforcement powers of the independent regulator to hold companies of any size to account,” said the spokesperson.

Businesses who were ordered to pay £13.5 million in fines by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) serve as reminders to the consequences of mishandling of personal information.

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Written by Wed 9 Aug 2023

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