Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

U.K. to Plan ‘Unprecedented Alignment’ With EU Over Data Sharing

  • New rules ‘in our mutual interest,’ says digital minister
  • Move will ease fears on conflicting data rules with EU

The U.K. government is set to reveal plans that show it will adhere to European data-sharing rules, to minimize disruption for U.K.-based companies conducting business with the bloc.

The paper, to be released Thursday, will outline how data will be protected and exchanged with the EU, and which “reflects the unprecedented alignment between British and European law,” according to the Department for Exiting the European Union.

"A strong future data relationship between the U.K. and EU, based on aligned data protection rules, is in our mutual interest," said Digital Minister Matt Hancock in a statement.

The U.K. currently abides by the Data Protection Act, which dates back to 1998. From May 2018 -- far earlier than any Brexit deadline -- the U.K. will have to abide by a new raft of rules that include tougher penalties for companies failing to protect their data.

When the U.K. leaves the EU, those will no longer apply to the country. However, over the past few months the U.K. has been announcing new laws, such as giving British citizens greater control over their personal data, that make sure that the U.K. will match incoming European legislation.

Read more about how the U.K. is taking on technology giants

Hancock said in early August the government would introduce new privacy legislation that would expand “the right to be forgotten,” beyond just search engine results to any personal data held by a third party. Such rights are a key part of the EU’s incoming regime.

Global tech companies including Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Snap Inc. have been expanding operations in the U.K. over the past few years. Any issues with the transfer of data between the U.K. and Europe will cause these companies unwanted headaches.

“This paper is a step forward, recognizing the importance of securing the free flow of data to the U.K. economy," said Tom Thackray, innovation director at the Confederation of British Industry. "If no transition deal is agreed, the U.K.’s potential 240 billion pound ($30o billion) data economy is at risk of isolation.”

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