• Tracey Twynham

Data in the News – March 2021

Updated: May 7

Welcome to the March round up of some of the top data stories hitting the news so far this month ...


UK declares that the EU ‘does not hold the monopoly on data protection’

Image by Christian Lue, Unsplash

As we highlighted last month, there was a collective sigh of relief last when the EU published its draft data adequacy decision for its relationship with the UK, signalling that data will likely continue to flow freely in a post-Brexit world. However, in a sign of things to come, both the UK and the EU have signalled that this adequacy agreement and the future relationship is likely to be fragile in the years to come.

For the EU's part, the European Commission said that it will seek to ensure that its decision stands the test of time and will be reviewing its ruling every four years, giving it the option to annul if it feels that London has deviated too far from its privacy requirements.

On the UK side, Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said that privacy isn't the only requirement for an effective data regime and that the EU doesn't hold a monopoly on data protection.

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Digital secretary Dowden outlines UK post-Brexit data approach

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, comments on how the economy and society can benefit from lessons learned in the pandemic.


Thousands of people are receiving a message that will change their lives: a simple email or text, inviting them to book their Covid jab. But what has powered the UK’s remarkable vaccine rollout isn’t just our NHS, but the data that sits underneath it — from the genetic data used to develop the vaccine right through to the personal health data enabling that “ping” on their smartphone.


After years of seeing data solely through the lens of risk, Covid-19 has taught us just how much we have to lose when we don’t use it. As I launch the competition to find the next information commissioner, I want to set a bold new approach that capitalises on all we’ve learnt during the pandemic, which forced us to share data quickly, efficiently, and responsibly for the public good. It is one that no longer sees data as a threat, but as the great opportunity of our time. Until now, the conversation about data has revolved around privacy — and with good reason.


A person’s digital footprint can tell you not just vital statistics like age and gender, but their personal habits. Our first priority is securing this valuable personal information.

The UK has a long and proud tradition of defending privacy, and a commitment to maintaining world-class data protection standards now that we’re outside the EU. That was recognised last week in the bloc’s draft decisions on the “adequacy” of our data protection rules — the agreement that data can keep flowing freely between the EU and UK.

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Will data anxiety delay the UK government’s digital ambitions?

As uncertainty has taken hold, digital transformation has proven to be a lifeline for many. Businesses across the country boosted expenditure on technology, switching their entire operation from physical to digital overnight. And they are not alone. The UK Government has been busy laying out its digital strategy, strengthening its digital leadership, and investing in innovation.


But as we look ahead to rebuilding and reinforcing government-run digital services beyond the current crisis, we must first address the elephant in the room. Almost half of government leaders still lack confidence in cloud security.

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Experian could face £34bn damages for data misuse - report


Credit reference agency Experian holds and shares sensitive information on more than 46 million people in the UK, but a new court cases alleges that the firm has been selling on people's data without their knowledge


Experian could be landed with a £34bn damages bill if a legal claim against the company is successful.


The credit checking company is accused of mis-selling people's data and building potentially inaccurate profiles that can affect their ability to borrow, the paper said.

A claim for £750 lodged at the High Court by a representative claimant accuses Experian of collecting information from online questionnaires and other sources and selling it on for commercial gain. Liz Williams's claim says Experian's use of her personal data was unfair and not transparent and that the company sold the information without her consent.

If she is successful, each of Experian's 46 million UK customers could claim the same amount.

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Vaccine Passports Pave the Road to the New Normal

With COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out globally, digital vaccine immunity certificates hold great promise for helping us reach a post-pandemic normal.


With COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out in regions globally, the race for applying solutions to aid in the “return to normal” is in full swing. Yet at the current pace, it will take years to fully immunize the planet against the virus. Given the long-term reality of living within a pandemic, the public and private sectors are forging ahead to create a source of record indicating a person’s COVID-19 immunity.


Digital vaccine immunity certificates, or “vaccine passports,” are an emerging technology that holds great promise for documenting whether an individual carries COVID-19 antibodies. However, obstacles also stand in the way of wide-scale adoption. Here’s what business leaders need to know about digital vaccine certifications and the questions that must be answered before they can use this technology to pave the way to the new normal.

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And finally …


Unlocking the Power of Personal Data to Fuel Innovation and Transform Lives

Our personal data is a vast and ever-growing resource that each of us adds to every day as we live, work, socialise and play in an increasingly online world.


This data has enormous potential – to fuel innovation, to transform and improve all our lives, as well as help create more personalised products and services.


Yet researchers and businesses are only ever able to see a thin slice of the available data, despite this explosion in the amount generated. This is because this data – created by us, about us – is siloed where it is generated, unable to be reused or shared elsewhere.

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