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UK aims to diverge from EU data rules to drive growth, minister says

Published 11/03/2021, 00:08
Updated 11/03/2021, 00:15
© Reuters. Britain's Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden walks outside Downing Street in London

By Paul Sandle

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is planning to reform data protection law to allow information to flow more freely and drive growth in the digital economy now it has left the European Union's orbit, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said.

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in 2018, was mirrored in British law following Brexit. The EU has provisionally recognised British law as adequate.

Dowden said Britain would not water down data protection, but it would look for opportunities to drive growth.

"There is a sweet spot for the UK whereby we hold onto many of the strengths of GDPR in terms of giving people security about their data," he told reporters. "But there are obviously areas where I think we can make more progress."

He said Britain could move faster than the EU in striking data-sharing deals with non-EU countries.

"In our rule making, we can take a slightly less European approach as set out in GDPR by focusing more on the outcomes that we want to have and less on the burdens of the rules imposed on individual businesses," he said.

Britain could diverge from Europe while keeping adequacy with the bloc, its biggest trading partner, he said, adding that it was not a binary choice between driving growth and sacrificing adequacy or having adequacy and little growth.

Dowden said he would not "move precipitately" and would draft proposals after consultation with industry.

The data proposals will be part of an agenda to use technology to drive the economic recovery from COVID-19.

He said the rollout of gigabit broadband would accelerate growth, and he was confident the 80% of the country that did not require subsidy would be connected by 2025.

The government had initially allocated 1.2 billion pounds of a total 5 billion to help fund broadband in rural areas, he said, adding that more money could be allocated.

© Reuters. Britain's Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden walks outside Downing Street in London

"The constraint is not the allocation of the capital, it's the capacity of the (telecoms) companies to deliver on that capital," he said.

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