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UK’s ICO Wants Larger Role in Regulating Big Tech – pymnts.com


The UK’s new information watchdog says his county will seek a leading role in making Big Tech companies accountable as Britain frees itself of European Union data regulations.

In an interview with the Financial Times Friday (Jan. 28), Information Commissioner John Edwards said Europe’s data protection rule had brought “quite a lot of friction and lag” to the system, especially its ‘one-stop shop’ method which centralizes enforcement of the regulations in the EU nation where companies are headquartered.

“Coming out of the EU does present considerable opportunities. [T]he one-stop shop … is one area that GDPR has not worked as its designers would have hoped,” said Edwards, who took office as information commissioner earlier this month.

“We, as a single regulator, can be more fleet of foot, and in a fast-moving digital environment, that too is critical for innovation.”

Edwards, a former New Zealand privacy commissioner and barrister, said the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) would have a “sharp supervisory focus” on tech companies like Google and Meta, whose business models depend on data.

“For too long, data protection has put the responsibility on individuals,” he said. “We’re suddenly realizing … we have to make companies open up and be honest about their business models, about the consequences of these data transactions people are entering into, in an increasingly complex and technical world.”

The FT notes that experts have warned that the U.K. risks harming its citizens and businesses by deviating from the data protection standards set up by the EU. But Edwards tells the newspaper he is not worried about the UK-EU data relationship becoming strained.

“I don’t believe that anything in the reform proposal would put adequacy at risk,” he said.

Read more: UK Data Watchdog Sides Against Gov’t in Encryption Debate

Last week, the ICO sided against the British government in its campaign to delay end-to-end encryption for private messaging. The government is backing the “No End to Hide Campaign” run by child safety advocates, arguing that end-to-end encryption (E2EE) keeps law enforcement from ferreting out harmful content such as child abuse imagery.

But privacy advocates argue that E2EE — in which the sender and recipients are the only ones who can see the contents of a massage — is crucial for guarding legitimate conversations.

It’s this second group that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has backed, saying E2EE is “crucial for businesses” and that making messaging services less secure would make children more at risk for certain threats, such as blackmail.

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