Digital Britain: the journey to a DP promised land?

Claire Walker

Datonomy is pleased to see that data protection gets several mentions in the Government’s roadmap for Digital Britain published last month.

The 239-page White Paper sets out wide-ranging proposals to promote the future of the media, communications and technology sectors, and the headlines have already been grabbed by sexier proposals such as the 50p levy to fund next generation broadband, the future of the TV licence fee and measures to crack down on Internet piracy. However, the Government recognises, quoting the EU’s Consumer Affairs Commissioner, that “personal data is new oil of the Internet and the new the currency of the digital world” and so data protection issues also feature in a number of sections of the report.

Personal digital and data security: consumer confidence in transacting online is an essential ingredient of a successful digital economy. There are no new proposals here, but the Government points to its existing “Get Safe Online” initiative as the kind of self-help measures which consumers and small businesses can benefit from (while lamenting that these are under funded).

Data security and assurance: privacy and security of online data are increasingly important issue for consumers, as illustrated by recent concerns over Google’s Streetview and online behavioural advertising. The report applauds the initiatives taken by the IAB on Online Behavioural Advertising – an example of a new business model which has the potential to generate revenue, where the IAB is demonstrating how this can be done within the parameters of data protection principles by promoting consumer education and good practice by advertisers. It also welcomes the new guidance being developed by the ICO on the protection of personal data online. Datonomy is heartened to see that on page 202 the Government also acknowledges that this is not just an issue for the private sector and that it (i.e. the Government) “must be increasingly vigilant in the manner in which it handles data”.

Safe deposit of personal data: this section of the report focuses on Information Assurance – namely managing risks to the confidentiality, availability and integrity of data held on ICT systems. It describes some of the improvements made to improve, and to improve the public’s confidence in, the public sector’s performance, following the 2008 Data Handling Report and the high profile data losses which triggered it. These include large scale encryption programmes, better training and the creation of an MSc in Information Assurance for future generations of public sector managers.

So, will Digital Britain be a “promised land” of best practice in all things data protection? We can but hope, and leave you with this tantalising hint from page 222 of the report: “the Government may need to consider further steps to ensure handling of data is firmly placed in the safe deposit category, on a similar footing to the handling of money.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *