Data Policy Digest

Gavin Freeguard

Gavin Freeguard

Hello, and welcome to Connected by Data’s second Data Policy Digest!

This is our attempt to keep track of the many things currently going on in data policy world. If there’s something we’ve missed, something you’re up to that you’d like us to include next time or you have any thoughts on how useful the Digest is or could be, please get in touch via We’re on Twitter @ConnectedByData and @DataReform, and Digest #1 is here.

Data policy developments

Deeply DPDIB

The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (DPDIB) starts its committee stage tomorrow (Wednesday). A Public Bill Committee – chaired by Tory Philip Hollobone and the DUP’s Ian Paisley, and made up of 10 Tory MPs, 6 Labour members and one from the SNP – will now examine the Bill in detail. They kick off tomorrow with two evidence sessions which you can watch live, starting at 9.25am and 2pm, where they will quiz various witnesses.

Connected by Data’s own Jeni Tennison is up at around 10.50am alongside our friends from the Ada Lovelace Institute and the Institute for the Future of Work. Also appearing in the morning are the Information Commissioner and the ICO’s deputy chief executive; Eduardo Ustaran [has spoken on the Bill], Vivienne Artz and the Centre for Information Policy Leadership; and techUK and the Data and Marketing Association.

The afternoon brings Medtronic and the UK Biobank; Zilo and UK Finance; the Better Hiring Institute; the National Crime Agency and the Met; Prospect and the TUC; the Public Law Project, Law Society of Scotland and Rights and Security International; and AWO. The Committee is still accepting written evidence if you have anything you want to submit.

In Connected by Data towers (which is not a tower, or indeed any sort of room since we’re virtual), we’ve been having a very heated discussion about an important aspect of DPDIB: how to pronounce it. To date, most of us have been saying DiP-DIB; Jeni makes the reasonable point that it should be DaP-DIB; but that implies an Australian pronunciation of data (dah-ta). Thoughts on this burning question very welcome.

All of our resources on the Bill are here. New additions include an updated Bill briefing from Big Brother Watch; PLP’s Alexandra Sinclair writing for the Law Society Gazette, ‘what is ‘world leading’ about rolling back data protections?’; the ODI’s Resham Kotecha on some key shortcomings; and Amberhawk’s Chris Pounder examining ‘seven deadly privacy sins’ in the Bill. Meanwhile, India’s forthcoming data protection reforms are also receiving some coverage.

Bills, bills, bills

The Online Safety Bill is also currently in committee – in the Lords, until 25 May. Encrypted messaging services, like WhatsApp and Signal, are not happy. Nor are some in the US about lobbying around similar initiatives to protect children online. Carnegie have a newsletter and resources if you want to stay up to date with that. And the other big digital bill – the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers (DMCC) Bill, sponsored by the Department of Business and Trade – is also now in parliament following its first reading. It has been welcomed by the Competition and Markets Authority – whose powers (including those of its Digital Markets Unit) will be strengthened to promote competition and protect consumers – while Politico reports that Big Tech is less happy.

AI got ‘rithm

The Competition and Markets Authority has opened a review into AI models, looking at competition and consumer protection. The government has also announced an expert taskforce ‘to help UK build and adopt next generation of safe AI’, modelled on the Covid-19 vaccines taskforce – the Alan Turing Institute is among those welcoming the announcement.

Labour’s Darren Jones – chair of the House of Commons Business and Trade select committee – wrote to the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) ‘to encourage the UK government to lead the international debate on the safe and secure testing of advanced artificial intelligence’ – and received a rapid reply. Some MPs have called for rapid regulation to avoid sleepwalking into danger. There was a Westminster Hall debate on the potential impact of AI on the labour market (the Institute for the Future of Work wrote on the same theme for The Guardian, and there’s also a piece in Tech Monitor). Also in parliament, the government’s outgoing chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, told a select committee that the impact of AI on jobs ‘could be as big as the Industrial Revolution was’. The Home Office seems to think an AI hackathon could be a quick fix to its asylum backlog stares in tech solutionism. A hat tip to Reform’s ‘The Week’ newsletter for compiling mentions of AI in recent speeches by various ministers, including Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. And a reminder you have until 21 June if you’d like to submit to the government’s consultation on its AI white paper.

Meanwhile, it’s all been kicking off in the US. The ‘godfather’ of AI, Geoffrey Hinton, quit Google, with a statement to the New York Times (he’s spoken to The Spectator, too). Several AI experts including former Google employees (who happen not to be white men) are among those questioning whether Hinton should have quit earlier and whether their earlier warnings should have been heeded. A Google document has apparently leaked, and worries about open source AI competitors. And Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission, wrote for the NYT about the need to regulate AI – and how to do it, and big tech bosses have been summoned to the White House.

DSIT up and take notice

You’d be forgiven for missing it amongst the other ministerial reshuffle news, but DSIT has announced who will be covering ministerial maternity leave: former DWP secretary of state Chloe Smith is already stepping in for secretary of state Michelle Donelan (and hopes the move will help ‘make maternity leave normal and successful’), while John Whittingdale – a former secretary of state, junior minister and select committee chair covering data policy – will deputise for Julia Lopez. In another personnel change, the department has lost a parliamentary private secretary (an MP that helps ministers stay in touch with the rest of their parliamentary party). And it was DSIT question time last week - nothing on the Bill, but plenty on Horizon Europe and a bit on AI.

Labour movement

There was more speculation about a possible Labour frontbench reshuffle post-local elections, partly to match the new government department configuration (shadow DCMS secretary Lucy Powell apparently wanting to follow science to DSIT), but more recent reports suggest the reshuffle may be some time away yet (a new IfG report reckons Keir Starmer probably shouldn’t leave it too long).

In brief

What we’ve been up to

  • We’re now holding weekly meetings for those organisations particularly interested in the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill – get in touch if you’d like to know more. And…
  • Today, Tuesday 9 May at 2pm, we’re holding the latest of our wider civil society open calls to discuss the Bill. We’ll start with an update and intelligence, some breakout discussions on different themes in the Bill, and then spending some time discussing some work we’ve been doing on data and tech policy ahead of the next general election. We’ve been working with Labour Together to kick off some thinking on that, and have some ideas we’d love to get your views on (you’ve got until 29 May to comment on this particular document).
  • We signed up to a Foxglove letter about Facebook’s role in Ethiopia
  • We supported the first-ever Gloucestershire Data Day
  • And I’ll be heading to Helsinki for the MyData Conference 2023 at the end of the month (it’ll no doubt be here sauna than we think).

What everyone else has been up to


Good reads

And if that’s not enough data-related news for you, then check out this longer list of data newsletters (etc).

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