The British government has launched a public consultation on its Plan for Digital Regulation which sets out a new approach to governing technology in the country.
Though primarily aimed at driving economic growth through innovation and competition, cyber security and data protection feature in the government’s proposals.
“Now that we have exited the EU, we have a fresh opportunity to build on our world-leading regulatory regime by setting out a pro-innovation approach to regulating digital technologies,” the government says in the plan’s executive summary.
It describes digital technologies as the engine driving the UK’s economic growth, with the sector accounting for £151bn ($209bn, €176bn) in output and 1.6m jobs in 2019, more than 34,000 new tech businesses created in 2018 and the UK attracting more international venture capital investment into technology businesses in 2020 than France and Germany combined.
The Covid-19 pandemic drove home technology’s growing importance with six in ten UK consumers increasing their household use of smart devices.
“With these benefits come new and enhanced risks,” the plan states. “Half of people in the UK believe it’s ‘part and parcel’ of being online that people will try to cheat or harm them in some way …
“Security needs to be embedded into innovation and planning: 39% of businesses and 26% of charities report having cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months, as a result of which one in five lost money, data or other assets. Critical industries, schools and local governments are also being targeted.
“As digital technologies become more integral to the wider economy and society, vulnerabilities in one organisation can lead to huge disruption elsewhere.”
Yet existing rules and norms guiding business activity are in many cases not designed for modern technologies and business models, such as those deploying powerful data processing capabilities.
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The government needs to work with companies to devise regulations to give clarity and certainty to businesses and consumers, the plan says, adding: “Well-designed regulation can have a powerful effect on driving growth and shaping a thriving digital economy and society.”
As UK controls its own data protection laws and regulations, the digital plan says the government “will continue to operate a high-quality regime that promotes growth and innovation, and underpins the trustworthy use of data.
“Ensuring our data protection regime is as good as it can be is critical to unlocking the power of data … We want a regime that fully supports a world-leading digital economy and society whilst underpinned by the trustworthy use of data.”
Pointing out better data use delivers economic and social benefits, the plan contends it is necessary to maintain high protection standards while removing unnecessary barriers to data use.
Among proposed legislation is the Online Safety Bill which will place a duty of care on online companies to keep their users safe, while defending freedom of expression and “the invaluable role of a free press”, the plan said.
Service providers will have to remove and limit the spread of illegal content such as child sexual abuse, terrorist material and suicide content, as well as do more to protect children from being exposed to harmful content like grooming, bullying, pornography, self-harm and eating disorders.
Interested parties have until 28 September to comment on the digital plan.