NEWS – “without comment”

MRS raises concerns over UK data protection reforms Liam Kay

20 September 2021

UK – The Market Research Society (MRS) has called the UK government’s review of data protection laws “concerning” over proposals to remove the right to have a human review of automated decisions.

In a letter to the Financial Times on 14th September, Jane Frost, chief executive of MRS, said ending guarantees of a human review of artificial intelligence (AI) decision-making could “undermine confidence in data use”, and threaten the UK’s £7bn market research industry.

The letter follows government proposals to reform the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which underpins UK data protection laws, and overhaul the work of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

A consultation launched earlier this month on the UK’s data laws said the government would build on GDPR but will diverge from what it called a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Media reports have claimed the right to have a human review of automated decisions could be at risk.

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport statement announcing the consultation said that current data protection regulations “place disproportionate burdens on many organisations”.

However, Frost’s letter argues that while innovative thinking is welcome, this should not come at the expense of fundamental rights.

“Informed consent is the basis of public faith in our industry and gives us our licence to operate,” the letter says.

“This includes the right to submit and have personal data assessed by algorithms on the understanding that decisions can be appealed and referred to a person if requested.

“If this were to be removed or restricted it would undermine confidence in data use, thereby damaging associated sectors across the country. This includes the UK’s world-leading market research industry which relies on people being confident enough in the system to share their data.”

As part of the proposed reforms, which follow the publication of a national data strategy last year, the government also wants to broaden the remit of the ICO and introduce a new governance model, including an independent board and chief executive, similar to the approach of other regulators including the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The government is also exploring whether there is a need for a power which explicitly allows the ICO to compel witnesses to be interviewed during investigations.

John Edwards, currently New Zealand’s privacy commissioner, has already been named as the preferred candidate for the new information commissioner, with Elizabeth Denham’s term set to expire.