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UK and US move closer to transatlantic data bridge deal

The British and American governments have committed, in principle, to a new data bridge agreement that will ease the free flow of personal data across the Atlantic

The UK and US are moving closer to an agreement that will facilitate the free flow of personal data across the Atlantic, which Westminster hopes will speed up processes for businesses, reduce costs and increase opportunities for UK organisations, which exported over £79m worth of data-enabled services to the US in 2021.

Currently, UK businesses that want to send personal data to a service provider or other company in the US must have contract clauses in place to guarantee UK data privacy and protection standards are respected and maintained.

The government believes the so-called data bridge, officially dubbed the UK Extension to the EU-US Data Privacy Framework, will remove this administrative burden while maintaining high standards of data regulation.

It is the result of two years of technical discussions and back-and-forth between Westminster and Washington, and both sides hope that if they go forward to achieve a deal, they will stimulate economic growth in both countries and encourage more British and American businesses to start operating globally.

“Data bridges not only offer simpler avenues for the safe transfer of personal data between countries, but also remove red tape for businesses of all sizes and allow them to access new markets,” said Chloe Smith, secretary of state for science, innovation and technology.

“International collaboration is key to our science and technology superpower ambitions, and working with global partners like the United States ensures we can open new opportunities to grow our innovation economy.”

The government hopes its 3,660-mile data bridge will also be a spur to transatlantic research and innovation, offering researchers and associated organisations and institutions certainty that they can collaborate and share data with their partners.

The US data bridge is the second such agreement secured by the UK government since it took the country out of the European Union (EU). The first, with South Korea, was finalised in November 2022.

At the time, Rishi Sunak’s government boasted that its agreement with Seoul would help make up some of the billions of pounds currently being lost due to Brexit – put at £100bn per annum by Bloomberg Economics – to the tune of as much as £15m; £11m drawn from the decreased red tape and a massive £3.8m in increased exports to South Korea.

The UK and US will now conduct further technical work over the next few months to make a final decision on whether or not the data bridge will be built.

Besides further assessments from the UK side, its construction will also depend on the US designation of the UK as a qualifying state under President Biden’s Executive Order 14086, which established data protection safeguards for US signals intelligence agencies.

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