Data Policy Digest

Gavin Freeguard

Gavin Freeguard

Hello, and welcome to our eighteenth Data Policy Digest, bringing you all the latest data and AI policy developments. 18 whole Digests. 18!

Appropriate number, 18.

It’s when you can legally vote - this is a very election-heavy newsletter.

And it’s when you can legally drink - I could do with several after sifting through FIVE manifestos this week.

(And still 20 days to go! Cheers!)

If you’re reading this you’re probably interested in data and AI policy…or just a real lover of Gavin’s puns. Either way we want to let you know about this pre-election event we’re hosting on Tuesday 25 June from 4:30-5:30pm asking Who should Labour listen to on AI, tech and public services? For more information and to register click here.

Image of election event panel"

Now back to the Digest.

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. You can also catch up on previous Digests.

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Data policy developments

Everything else

What we’ve been up to

What everyone else has been up to


Good reads

Never mind the ballots

If you’ve not already bookmarked it/made it your homepage/pledged to vote for it on 4 July, we’ve set up a Data and AI Civil Society Network Election Hub. We’ll be updating with resources throughout the campaign - and you can add to it, too! (And if you’d like to find out more about the network, visit our dedicated website.)

Manifesto destiny

Well yes, it’s been a busy week, manifesto-wise.

On Monday, the Lib Dems were the first out of the blocks (to clarify: figuratively, not literally, because you could well imagine Ed Davey doing the launch while sprinting round a running track, purely for the purposes of that joke). Their data/AI pledges included… ECONOMY (page 14) empowering consumers so all enjoy the benefits of new tech… a UK-wide target for digital literacy… requiring all products to have a short version of t&cs including key facts on individuals’ data and privacy… BUSINESS AND JOBS (p17) make UK ‘a world leader in ethical, inclusive new technology, including AI’, through (p19) a ‘clear, workable and well-resourced cross-sectoral regulatory framework’ which ‘promotes innovation’ with certainty for users, developers, investors… transparency and accountability for AI systems in the public sector, ensuring use of personal data and AI ‘is unbiased, transparent and accurate, and respects the privacy of innocent people’… UK to be part of the Trade and Technology Council (with the US and EU) to play a ‘leading role in global AI regulation…’

HEALTH (p35) a Patients’ Charter to include patient voice and ‘Protecting patient data and patients’ rights to opt out of data sharing’… harnessing the benefits of new tech and digital tools - including replacing old/slow computers, requiring interoperability between different IT systems, and ‘ensuring every care setting has electronic records that can feed into a patient’s health record with the patient’s consent’… ENVIRONMENT (p62) mandating water companies to publish accessible real-time data on any sewage they dump… CRIME AND POLICING (p57) ‘a new data strategy across the criminal justice system to ensure that capacity meets demand, and to understand the needs of all users, especially victims, vulnerable people and those from ethnic minority backgrounds’… improving transparency by ‘enabling all victims to request a transcript of court proceedings free of charge’… (p58) restoring ‘direct, real-time access for UK police to EU-wide data sharing systems to identify and arrest traffickers, terrorists and other international criminals’, while… IMMIGRATION AND ASYLUM (p90) ensuring a ‘firewall’ to prevent public agencies sharing personal information with the Home Office for immigration enforcement, and repealing the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act…

And finally… RIGHTS AND EQUALITY (p94) ‘Digital Bill of Rights to protect everyone’s rights online, including the rights to privacy, free expression, and participation without being subjected to harassment and abuse’… ‘ending the bulk collection of communications data and internet connection records’… ‘Introducing a legally binding regulatory framework for all forms of biometric surveillance’… ‘immediately halt the use of live facial recognition surveillance by the police and private companies’… (p96) ‘Requiring large employers to monitor and publish data on gender, ethnicity, disability, and LGBT+ employment levels, pay gaps and progression, and publish five-year aspirational diversity targets’… POLITICAL REFORM (p100) ‘Establishing national and local citizens’ assemblies to ensure that the public are fully engaged in finding solutions to the greatest challenges we face, such as tackling the climate emergency and the use of artificial intelligence and algorithms by the state’… requiring parties to publish candidate diversity data (s106 of the Equality Act)… pushing for a global convention or treaty to combat disinformation and election interference (with an annual conference and Global Counter-Disinformation Fund)… real-time transparency for political ads, donations and spending… and there’s also a pledge (p102) to ‘end the scandal of government by WhatsApp’, through better recording and transparency reporting.

Perhaps the Lib Dems having all the data and AI policies explains the relative scarcity in the Conservative manifesto, published on Tuesday… SECURE, DYNAMIC & GROWING ECONOMY (p9) R&D measures and ‘Continue investing over £1.5 billion in large-scale compute clusters, assembling the raw processing power so we can take advantage of the potential of AI and support research into its safe and responsible use’… ‘Doubling digital and AI expertise in the civil service, to take advantage of the latest technologies to transform public services’… SUPPORT FAMILIES (p19) ‘put our guidance on banning mobile phones in the school day on statutory footing which will require all schools to operate a ban’… ‘urgently consult on introducing further parental controls over access to social media’… BETTER HEALTH & SOCIAL CARE (p41) Make the NHS App the single front door for NHS services… use AI to free up doctors’ and nurses’ time for frontline patient care… replace outdated computers, digitise NHS processes through Federated Data Platform and fund technology to support clinicians reading scans… ‘implement a new medtech pathway so that cost-effective medtech, including AI, is rapidly adopted throughout the NHS’… SAFER STREETS AND JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS OF CRIME (p44) ‘back the police’ with new tools, including facial recognition… SPORT AND CREATIVE SECTOR (p71) ‘We will ensure creators are properly protected and remunerated for their work, whilst also making the most of the opportunities of AI and its applications for creativity in the future’… STRENGTHEN THE UK (p72) ‘we will legislate to deliver comparable data across the UK so the performance of public services can be accurately compared’ (this is something that came up during DPDIB proceedings, and in the Lievesley Review of the UK statistical system).

Wednesday brought the Green manifesto… MAKING WORK FAIR (p17-18) Gig economy workers are excluded from fundamental workers’ rights, so bring them under a single legal status of ‘worker’ with a right to access their data… employers regularly breaching data protection law denied a licence to operate… ARTS, SPORT AND CULTURE FOR ALL: dedicated DIGITAL RIGHTS section (p38)… as part of ‘establish[ing] the UK as a leading voice on standards for the rule of law and democracy in digital spaces’, a Digital Bill of Rights would ‘ensure independent regulation of social media providers’, give the public greater control over their data and ensure UK data protection is as strong as any other regulatory regime… given the ‘complexity’ of such legislation, this Bill should ‘be developed through a broad and inclusive public conversation’…

AI has ‘an enormous potential for good, when well regulated’… a precautionary approach to harms and risk… align the UK approach with Europe, UNESCO and global efforts… and ‘aim to secure equitable access to any socially and environmentally responsible benefits’ while addressing bias, discrimination, equality, liberty or privacy issues… ‘insist on the protection of the intellectual property of artists, writers and musicians and other creators… [and] ensure AI does not erode the value of human creativity and that workers’ rights and interests are respected’… BRINGING JUSTICE TO CRIME AND POLICING (p39) ‘end routine use of stop and search’ and ‘the use of facial recognition software’… Police and Crime Commissioners, and councillors on police and crime panels, ‘to have open access to the data needed to enable effective scrutiny of operational policing’… A FAIRER AND GREENER DEMOCRACY (p33) ‘Amend the Online Safety Act to protect democracy, and prevent political debate from being manipulated by falsehoods, fakes and half-truths’.

Thursday began with Plaid Cymru (it’s ‘maniffesto’, since you were wondering) and a focus on digital infrastructure… ECONOMY AND TAXATION (p10) ‘Invest in our digital infrastructure and guarantee a high-speed connection to every home & business’, facilitating flexible working, giving Welsh businesses the infrastructure to enter global markets, and allowing greater participation in R&D around new tech ‘making Wales more of a go to location for technological innovation’… RURAL AFFAIRS (p48) notes a previous commitment to a Welsh Broadband Infrastructure Company, and a priority to connect rural areas. (Plaid’s 2021 Senedd manifesto has much more on data and AI, given that it’s the Welsh Government they’d like to be running.)

Slightly later came Labour, with pretty much everything having already appeared in mission documents or been briefed in advance… KICKSTART ECONOMIC GROWTH (p35) ‘ensure our industrial strategy supports the development of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector, removes planning barriers to new datacentres’… ‘create a National Data Library to bring together existing research programmes and help deliver data-driven public services, whilst maintaining strong safeguards and ensuring all of the public benefit’… ‘Regulators are currently ill-equipped to deal with the dramatic development of new tech’ which cut across industries/sectors; a new Regulatory Innovation Office ‘will help regulators update regulation, speed up approval timelines, and co-ordinate issues that span existing boundaries’ (this was first announced back in October; Politico notes techUK’s Commercialisation of Tech Taskforce and Form Ventures’ Regulatory Innovation Unit might provide models)… ‘ensure the safe development and use of AI models by introducing binding regulation on the handful of companies developing the most powerful AI models and by banning the creation of sexually explicit deepfakes’…

BREAK DOWN THE BARRIERS TO OPPORTUNITY (p81) ‘Sadly, too often we see families falling through the cracks of public services. Labour will improve data sharing across services, with a single unique identifier, to better support children and families’… BUILD AN NHS FIT FOR THE FUTURE (p97-8) transform the NHS app such that it allows people to more easily participate in clinical trials… puts patients ‘in control of their own health’ (managing medicines, appointments and health needs)… provides performance information on local services… gives notifications of vaccinations and health checks… and ‘Patients will be able to see the medical guidelines for the treatment they should get, to hold health services to account and understand what their choices are’… build on the Online Safety Act, ‘bringing forward provisions as quickly as possible, and explore further measures to keep everyone safe online, particularly when using social media. We will also give coroners more powers to access information held by technology companies after a child’s death’…

And Labour pledges to implement ‘Make Work Pay: Delivering a New Deal for Working People’ in full (p45)… as per our last edition, that includes working in partnership to examine what AI means for work, safeguarding against surveillance and discriminatory algorithms, consultation, outlawing predictive tech for blacklisting and singling out workers for mistreatment, and introducing a right to switch off.

Friday is scheduled to be manifesto-free. (And it had better stay that way. Reform is expected next week, SNP date tbc.)

If I’m ever elected, I will make it illegal to reference ‘AI’ in any section of a lengthy written document without first calling it ‘artificial intelligence’. It’s much easier to CTRL+F ‘artificial’ than ‘AI’. Especially in the Plaid Cymru manifesto.

(And Greens: make the link to your longer manifesto more obvious next time, please? The only data-y mention in the short version was a passing reference to big tech and media ownership - the full doc was much more interesting.)

If you want some further manifesto analysis (glutton/masochist)… Computing has analyses of Lib Dem, Green and Tory manifestos, and Computer Weekly the Lib Dem and Tory manifestos, as we go to pixel… The Record’s Alex Martin looked at the Lib Dem, Conservative, Green and Labour manifestos through a cyber lens… while Jon Baines asks (and answers) What do the main party manifestos say about data? He’s not the only person to note that ‘freedom of information’ is missing from all the manifestos so far - as well as this Keir Starmer pamphlet, I’d note several previous Labour and Lib Dem manifestos have included its extension to private providers of public services.

Labour movement

Before the manifesto, a Peter Kyle appearance at London Tech Week gave some clues: ‘Labour vows to boost UK tech sector by easing planning and procurement processes’ was the FT’s preview of the speech, while Kyle himself tweeted City AM’s coverage. Politico also reported Kyle telling LTW that Labour would make DSIT the “digital centre” of government, responsible for helping other departments to reform public services to be ‘more personalized and [involve] less paper shuffling’. He’s also vowed to end the ‘war on universities’.

Also out in advance was this Telegraph story, Labour to overrule councils to build data centres on green belt, just as Data centre plans spark fury among residents (BBC).

Labour Digital have endorsed two more candidates on top of their original 40… of the Guardian’s ‘rising stars’, Kanishka Narayan, Samantha Niblett and Josh Simons are particularly interested in tech (they’re also among Politico’s 20 people shaping Labour’s tech policy) while Georgia Gould’s Camden has innovated with data in local government (including its Data Charter)…

Meanwhile, in Cardiff Bay, the First Minister won’t quit after losing vote of no confidence (BBC).

News Tory

The only thing longer than a Data Policy Digest at the moment is the list of bad polls for the Tories. Some, including the first YouGov MRP of the election, have Sec of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, Michelle Donelan, losing her seat… and in other news, Treasury perm sec warned ministers over Tory tax claim (Civil Service World)… and Rishi Sunak puts Jamie Dimon and Eric Schmidt forward for UK honours (FT).

Everything else

It was bound to happen, wasn’t it? Meet AI SteveBrighton general election candidate aims to be UK’s first ‘AI MP’ (Guardian)… Brighton Pavilion: ‘AI candidate’ jostles with Labour to oust one Green MP (LabourList). (One presumes the Labour candidate’s response is: Bring It On.) If you want a list of all candidates in Brighton Pavilion, try the excellent Democracy Club. (It’s mad that this important piece of our election infrastructure is run by a bunch of volunteer nerds is James O’Malley’s take.)

If you thought we were done with manifestos, think again! From our Data and AI Civil Society Network… Manifesto Proposals for Education and the Digital Environment (Defend Digital Me - and thread)… General Election Briefing: 2024 from Big Brother Watch, with a template letter to send to your candidates (and Election Watch page)… Building a future of better work: policy asks for a new government (Institute for the Future of Work - see also their election special newsletter)… DIGITAL RIGHTS MANIFESTO (Open Rights Group - if you’re a candidate, you can pledge support)… Incoming UK Government must commit to implementing and enforcing children’s safety online regulation (5Rights Foundation)…

From elsewhere… How the next government can transform society with ethics, education and equity in technology: BCS manifesto 2024 (BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT)… responsible and transparent use of patient data, and investment in research infrastructure feature in Wellcome’s manifesto… protecting IP in the age of AI makes Creative UK’s manifestoPARTY LEADERS MUST MAKE ONLINE SAFETY AN ELECTION PRIORITY (Molly Rose Foundation)… four key policy asks (Smartphone Free Childhood - Peep Show stars Sophie Winkleman and Isy Suttie appear to agree, in The Sun - TikTok liquidises brains, Instagram is full of self-hate, Twitter a porn-fest – why have MPs not banned phones for kids?)… Charter for Digital Inclusion (Digital Poverty Alliance)… Our work on the 2024 general election - including Statistics in Action: A manifesto for empowering society through data (Royal Statistical Society)… Sense About Science is calling for people to write to party leaders on why Government must show its workings on important policies, following a recent report, Departments failing to follow government rules on policy evidenceDMA launches 10-point election manifesto following demise of DPDI (Data and Marketing Association)… also have a list of manifestos from policy organisations (h/t Jen)…

Some other resources… Face the general election like a pro (mySociety)… Labour’s election policy positions, tracked (Politico)… The Tories’ election policy positions, tracked (Politico)… not forgetting Public First’s tracker

And… Let’s put an end to bullshit manifestos (Full Fact)… OSR highlights the importance of transparency in election claims (OSR)… Political leaders warned about stats transparency in general election campaigning (CSW)… TikTok launches UK General Election Centre, including a fact-checking partnership (TikTok)…

The General Election and my personal data - what should I expect? (ICO)… Tories, stop targeting me! Defend democracy from data dark arts (Good Law Project - see also, The Mail folds on its awkward appeal to human rights)… Does political microtargeting with large language models offer persuasive returns? (Oxford Internet Institute)…

How will AI impact “the year of elections”? (Bennett Institute)… 2024 AI Elections Tracker (Rest of World)… FAKE IMAGE FACTORIES II: How Midjourney is failing to prevent the creation of AI images that threaten elections (Center for Countering Digital Hate)… Labour’s Wes Streeting among victims of deepfake smear network on X (BBC) and Second deepfake Labour video in two days as Streeting and Akehurst targeted (LabourList)… When generative AI gets political (Politico)… Discussing Deepfakes – how could we respond to the threat of deepfakes and seize the potential of synthetic media technologies? (techUK)… Misunderstanding the harms of online misinformation (Nature)… MP candidates warned over TikTok and X use due to deepfake threat to election (the I), which I think refers to some of this Cabinet Office guidanceWhat are deepfakes and how can we detect them? (Turing)… Deepfakes are here and can be dangerous, but ignore the alarmists – they won’t harm our elections (Guardian)…

Not forgetting the European elections… How AI chatbots responded to basic questions about the 2024 European elections right before the vote (Reuters Institute)…

And… the first academic reference to election results as the “swing of a pendulum” (via Stian Westlake)… while I remembered a data sonification I made back in 2019 about manifesto word count.

Data policy developments

AI got ‘rithm

It’s been at least a few minutes since the last open letter on AI, so here’s one from ‘current and former employees at frontier AI companies’: A Right to Warn about Advanced Artificial Intelligence (see also: He quit OpenAI, branding it reckless. He hopes outside pressure can now force change, Business Insider).

It’s also been a paragraph without a mention of an AI Summit. So why not catch up on video of the latest AI Fringe? Opening Remarks and Panel 1: The state of AI safety: Where we are and where we need to goPanel 2: Developing and deploying AI: Addressing the challengesClosing address - Looking ahead: Passing the baton to France.

GOVERNANCE/REGULATION/INTERNATIONAL AI Governance in Practice Report 2024 (IAPP and FTI Consulting)… US antitrust enforcer says ‘urgent’ scrutiny needed over Big Tech’s control of AI (FT)… FTC consumer chief fires warning on false AI claims (Axios)… noyb urges 11 DPAs to immediately stop Meta’s abuse of personal data for AI (noyb)… AI system development: CNIL’s recommendations to comply with the GDPR (Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés)… Javier Milei pitches Argentina as low-regulation AI hub (FT)…

CALIFORNIA DREAMING/NIGHTMARE Silicon Valley in uproar over Californian AI safety bill (FT)… Can California fill the federal void on frontier AI regulation? (Brookings)… California’s AI bill was an avoidable disaster (Air Street Capital)… According to Google, Colorado’s new privacy law is much better than other new US state laws in Florida, Texas, Oregon and Montana (Wolfie Christl)…

BIG AI What Ever Happened to the AI Apocalypse? Out: building God. In: partnering with Apple (New York Magazine)… Apple’s AI opportunity is all about the big picture (The Verge)… Here’s how Apple’s AI model tries to keep your data private (The Verge)… Thoughts on the WWDC 2024 keynote on Apple Intelligence (Simon Willison)… Tim Cook is ‘not 100 percent’ sure Apple can stop AI hallucinations (The Verge)… This Hacker Tool Extracts All the Data Collected by Windows’ New Recall AI (Wired)… Microsoft ‘recalls’ screenshot feature after outcry (BBC)… Adobe overhauls terms of service to say it won’t train AI on customers’ work (The Verge)…

ARE WE HUMAN? The CEO of Zoom wants AI clones in meetings (The Verge)… AI chatbots are intruding into online communities where people are trying to connect with other humans (The Conversation)… No, Drake’s cover of ‘Hey There Delilah’ isn’t AI (Wired)… THE KILLERS Eric Schmidt is secretly testing AI military drones in a wealthy Silicon Valley suburb (Forbes)…

EVERYTHING ELSE Understanding the real threat generative AI poses to our jobs (Blood in the Machine)… Hackers Target AI Users With Malicious Stable Diffusion Tool on Github to Protest ‘Art Theft’ (404 Media)… What the AI boom is getting wrong (and right), according to Hugging Face’s head of global policy (Rest of World)… Down the Rabbit hole: Pocket-sized AI gadget put to the test (BBC)… AI is Expensive (LSE)… AI as super-controversy: Eliciting AI and society controversies with an extended expert community in the UK (Big Data & Society)… The UK as an AI Superpower: The Government’s Challenge Begins at Home (RUSI)… This Is What It Looks Like When AI Eats the World (The Atlantic).

Everything else

DSIT up and take notice Government departments won’t be publishing much over the next few weeks, but… Why civil service buildings are setting new industry standards for tech (Public Technology)… DWP develops data tool to simulate ‘future world and how we can prepare for it’ (Public Technology)… Understanding what information people commonly request from public authorities (ICO)… Should the public sector believe the AI hype? (Public Technology)… UK ended Palantir post-Brexit border deal over ‘budget pressures’ (FT)… Data: a problem shared (Reform - the thinktank, not the party)…

UK stats gangbustersgate: We’re all trying to find the guy who did this (FT)… Important update for StatsWales OData users (Welsh Government)…

And some wider thinking on digital government… Mission: Possible previews a report from the Future Governance Forum and Public Digital (launch event 25 June, Town Hall 2030: local government for the digital era)… Project vs Product Funding (Jennifer Pahlka)… We need bold and better GovTech – not ‘Big IT’ (Steve Foreshew-Cain).

Bills, bills, bills There aren’t any! Enjoy it while it lasts, because… Rumours about a possible Labour AI and/or data bill continue to circulate. Politico reported some sources saying it would take a while and there are other immediate priorities; on the other hand, ‘DSIT officials were already advanced on drafting AI legislation before Rishi Sunak called the election, so the groundwork is there if Labour chooses to fast track a bill should it sweep to power’. And there’s that manifesto promise of binding regulation on some of the more powerful AI models.

Parly-vous data? Parliament will meet after the election on 9 July, when MPs will be sworn in and the speaker elected. The state opening and King’s Speech - which will outline the government’s legislative agenda - will take place on 17 July.

In brief

What we’ve been up to

What everyone else has been up to


Good reads

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