The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill would amend existing data protection legislation in ways the government says would reduce burdens on organisations while maintaining high data protection standards. 

Among other things, the bill would also reform the governance structure and powers of the information commissioner. It would clarify rules on international data transfers, allowing the secretary of state to approve ‘data bridges’ with other countries. It would establish a regulatory framework for digital verification services providers. It would enable the government to require data holders to share customer data at the customer’s request to enable smart data schemes. It would enable law enforcement authorities to retain biometric data obtained from foreign partners for longer. It would allow Ofcom to require social media companies to retain information in connection with an investigation by a coroner into the death of a child who was suspected to have died by suicide. It would establish electronic, rather than paper-based, registers of births and deaths. It would also establish a national underground asset register. It would abolish the biometrics commissioner and surveillance camera commissioner, transferring some of their functions to other regulators. 

Hundreds of government amendments were made to the bill in the House of Commons. Labour argued at report stage that the bill should be recommitted to a public bill committee to allow further scrutiny, but this motion was defeated. Labour welcomed a government amendment at report stage removing the secretary of state’s power to veto codes of conduct drawn up by the information commissioner. MPs raised concerns about new provisions added at report stage to enable the government to require banks and financial institutions to provide data about accounts linked to benefit claimants, which the government argues is necessary to tackle benefit fraud. MPs questioned why state pension claimants were included. They also raised concerns about the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) having powers to look at people’s bank accounts without grounds for suspicion. The provisions were added to the bill after a division. Non-government amendments on democratic engagement, high-risk processing of data and safeguards on automated decision-making were defeated at report stage.

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