Jeni Tennison

Jeni Tennison

Jeni Tennison

Those following my weeknotes know that I was due to be on jury service over the first two weeks of April. That turned out to be over quite quickly (the Easter holidays meant there weren’t enough trials for the jury pool), which meant I had a couple of weeks that were relatively light in meetings and could catch up with some of the heads down work I needed to progress.

Data Bill

So, I got to spend more time than I’d anticipated rejigging our brief for the Second Reading of the Data Protection and Digital Information (No.2) Bill. And working on a piece for Labour List about the need for Labour to articulate a compelling vision for data and digital, and resist (the worst bits of) the Bill.

This – alongside the relationships we’ve built up with relevant advisors – was time well spent. We weren’t mentioned by name in the debate, which isn’t surprising given we’re not a well-known organisation, but listening to the speeches, I could hear the examples, figures, language and ideas that we had used coming through.

Both pieces were a real team effort and so much the better for it. I’m fine on the conceptual underpinnings and the policy detail, but am less good expressing it in a compelling and persuasive way. Adam, Jonathan, and Gavin contributed examples, more accessible language, political awareness, and boldness. It’s brilliant to work with them.

We also this week had our first mainstream media mentions, in both the Guardian and the BBC, thanks to Adam’s amazing work pulling together three stories about the impacts of data and automated decision-making at work. These are summarised in our brief, but we’ll also have them on the website soon, and – as they’ve proven to be so useful at surfacing the issues – intend to add similar stories about the impact of data in education, health, and other sectors. If you know of any good ones, please let us know.

Thanks to Reset, I attended a session of the APPG on Digital Regulation and Responsibility just before the Second Reading. It was a small group of parliamentarians, mostly Lords, but I was impressed by their attention to the detail of the Bill. Next time I need to go equipped to discuss specific words and phrases! One challenge with this legislation, I think, is that it covers quite a wide range of issues – from data rights, AI and automated decision-making, biometrics, children’s data, national security data, consumer rights, Smart Data, the independence of the ICO, international data transfers and so on. For each, there are probably only a handful of parliamentarians who really care.

Civil society organisations have to focus as well; covering the whole Bill and its implications in depth as one organisation would be pretty impossible. So I’m pleased to see the coalition of civil society organisations that we’ve been facilitating around the Bill gradually growing and gaining energy. Our open document of resources about the Bill, and our policy digest, are intended to support that coalition. We’re also working on some non-public resources, such as a document summarising proposed amendments and who’s driving and supporting them; and a record of intelligence about particular parliamentarians and their interests.

I’m really excited now to start looking at the detail of amendments, and working with other organisations to find parliamentary champions for them. And to provide evidence to the Bill Committee – I’ve already been asked to appear on 10th May, so working towards that will be a focus over the next few weeks.

Other things

Work around the Bill has rather dominated my time, but I’ve been able to get on with a few other things too. This includes almost getting a new grant over the line, and all the budgetary rejigging that entails, as well as giving our new Board their own presence on the website. I’m really looking forward to Emily – our new Head of Delivery and Operations – starting on Monday to help us with all of this.

We’re getting to the final stages of our work with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, looking at engagement and governance strategies around the insight infrastructure for social and economic inequality that they’re hoping to grow. We held a workshop this week to go through and get feedback on our proposals, which was largely positive but also made me concerned about the match between capacity and the level of ambition we’ve had.

Finally, I went to the Bennett Institute Annual Conference last Friday, which made me feel very guilty for not having progressed the report I was working on last year, comparing food and data regulation. I went back and looked at the comments on it, and realised they were almost a year old! I am so bad at finishing the things I start. So I sent it to Diane to have a look at; if she thinks it has legs then I’m hoping that will give me the impetus to get it done.

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