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UK launches international data transfer council

Businesses, academics and trade bodies convene to help the UK seize data-sharing opportunities

The UK government has announced the launch of the International Data Transfer Expert Council as part of its plan to take advantage of free and secure data flows after leaving the European Union.

Launched 25 January, the group led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is holding its first meeting to provide independent advice on data to the government. The pool of 20 members includes executives from Google, Mastercard and Microsoft, as well as academic and representatives of organisations such as the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Future of Privacy Forum (see full list below).

The government sees international data transfers as core to the most-used tech, including smart devices and online banking, as well as digital healthcare in the context of Covid-19 vaccine development. The UK’s view is that removing barriers to data flow will lead to more reliable and secure service provision, and allow access to billions of pounds worth of trade.

“We want the UK to drive forward cutting-edge policies at home and overseas to ensure people, businesses and economies benefit from safe and secure data flows,” said data minister Julia Lopez. She added that the aim of the panel, which will meet quarterly, is to “deliver a world-leading and truly global data policy for the future”.

Issues to be addressed at the meetings include future data adequacy partnerships, the development of new data transfer tools, and how governments can partner to promote greater citizen trust in sharing personal data for law enforcement and national security purposes.

Striking deals for personal data transfer – including identifiable individual and includes secure transfer of information on matters such as ethnic origin and IP address – with key trading partners globally is part of the UK’s agenda on that front. It is prioritising the US, Australia, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, the Dubai International Finance Centre, and Colombia.

According to the government, the new data transfer agreements will build significantly on the annual £83bn worth of data-enabled UK service exports.

The members of the International Data Transfer Expert Council are:

  • Anne Josephine Flanagan – Data policy and governance lead at World Economic Forum.
  • Bojana Bellamy – President at Centre for Information Policy Leadership.
  • Caitlin Fennessy – Vice-president and chief knowledge officer at International Association of Privacy Professionals.
  • Caroline Louveaux – Chief privacy officer at Mastercard.
  • Christopher Calabrese – Senior director of privacy and data policy at Microsoft.
  • Clarisse Girot – Asia-Pacific director at Future of Privacy Forum.
  • Eduardo Ustaran – Partner and global co-head of privacy and cyber security practice at Hogan Lovells.
  • Elizabeth Coombs – Associate professor at University of Malta, and Chair of International Committee at Australian Privacy Foundation.
  • Fergus Allan Cloughley – CEO and director at Obashi Technology Limited.
  • Isaac Rutenberg – Senior lecturer and director of Centre for Intellectual Property and IT Law at Strathmore University, Kenya.
  • João Barreiro – Chief privacy officer at BeiGene.
  • Kate Charlet – Director for data governance at Google.
  • Neena Modi – Professor of neonatal medicine at Imperial College London, and consultant in neonatal medicine for the NHS.
  • Nigel Cory – Associate director of trade policy at Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
  • Richard Ward – Government relations director at IBM.
  • Ruth Boardman – Partner and co-head of the International Privacy and Data Protection Group at Bird & Bird.
  • Théodore Christakis – Professor of International and European Law at Université Grenoble Alpes, and Senior Fellow at Cross-Border Data Forum.
  • Thomas Boue – Director general of policy (EMEA) at BSA | The Software Alliance.
  • Vivienne Artz – Chair of the Data Working Group of the International Regulatory Strategy Group (IRSG), and NED and vice-chair of the Risk Committee for Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation (GLEIF).
  • Wai Kuan Hon – Of Counsel with privacy and cyber security team at Dentons.

The launch of the International Data Transfer Expert Council is part of the National Data Strategy, launched in 2021 with the objective of using data to boost economic growth, as well as job creation and enhance public service delivery.

“We will make full use of our new powers, working globally to strike data adequacy agreements with our partners, to deliver innovative alternative mechanisms and to remove unjustified barriers to international data transfers,” said the secretary of state for DCMS, Oliver Dowden, when guidance on international data flows was released in August 2021.

“In doing so, we want to shape global thinking and promote the benefits of secure international exchange of data. This will be integral to global recovery and future growth and prosperity,” he added.

When trade association TechUK set out its vision to liberalise digital trade policy in 2020, it urged the government to “set a new course” in its trade policy and redesign its approach with a liberal mindset to respond to a movement towards “balkanisation” in digital global markets.

According to the organisation, a major threat facing the UK is a trend towards “digital protectionism”, with nations taking actions such as restriction of data flows, conditions for market access and forced transfer of intellectual property. The organisation urged the UK to revamp its trade policy and become “digital by default” to respond to that global movement. In September 2021, the UK’s digital trade policy was launched.

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