The UK government is currently reviewing the new Data Protection Bill, which will require social media companies to delete personal information of users when requested. The bill was already announced in the Queen’s Speech and is expected to be passed in the month of September.
The new bill is designed to sign European privacy rules into British law, and also to update the Data Protection Act, which has been static since 1998. Next May, the General Data Protection Regulation will have a new set of enforcements that will come into existence. Therefore, the existing set of data rules should be upgraded to match those, and to ensure they are equivalent to the EU’s laws after Brexit.
The new Data Protection Bill will give us one of the most robust, yet dynamic, set of data laws in the world,” said Mr Hancock in a statement.
“It will give people more control over their data, require more consent for its use, and prepare Britain for Brexit,” he added.
When the new bill is passed, individuals will have more control over their personal information by having the ‘right to be forgotten’. Individuals can ask social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to remove their childhood photos, for example.
Once the bill is passed, the Information Commissioner’s Office will have more power to defend individual interest. Companies that flout the law will face higher fines of up to EUR17 million or four percent of global turnover, depending on the breach’s depth. The current maximum fine that companies can suffer for breaking data protection laws is Euro 500,000.
Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, said: “We are pleased the government recognises the importance of data protection, its central role in increasing trust and confidence in the digital economy and the benefits the enhanced protections will bring to the public.”
The bill proposal makes it simpler for the individual to ask for their information to be removed. The bill also requires individuals to give explicit consent to have their information collected and stored, rather than companies offering pre-selected options.
The move will, hopefully, force social companies to be more responsible about storing customer data without their consent. The problem is, most consumers are unaware of the level of control they have over their own personal information. Besides, the complex terms and conditions of many social media companies don’t allow them to have a full understanding of how their data is stored and/or used.
Will the new bill make a difference when it becomes law? Will people use it to exercise their personal digital rights? That still remains to be seen. For now, the wheels are turning to put more control into the hands of users.