Theresa May’s plan to scrap the controversial Data Protection Act will likely face fierce opposition, but some experts think it could be the most effective way to tackle the rise of data leaks.
In her first speech as Prime Minister, May set out plans to scrap one of the most controversial parts of the legislation, the Data Protection Bill, as well as the Investigatory Powers Bill, which will now face a major test in the House of Commons.
“The bill will now be reviewed and we will be introducing legislation to reform the Investigatories Powers Act, which gives police and security forces the power to access, intercept, store and analyse data and information held by businesses and organisations,” May said.
But the legislation has been controversial, with critics claiming that it can be used to invade people’s privacy.
Police are already able to access private data on mobile phones and computers, which is why the government has proposed changes to the law to make the data collection a little more targeted.
May has promised to change the law so that police and other security services will only be able to collect data if there is a specific warrant issued.
However, some civil liberties campaigners fear that could open the way for the police to go even further, allowing them to collect everything from emails and social media posts to text messages.
Data breaches have also become a huge concern for the country as they are often blamed on a lack of oversight.
A 2015 report from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions found that nearly a quarter of data breaches in England and Wales had been committed by private companies, with a further 18 per cent from government organisations.
More recently, the British Council has also raised concerns about the Government’s plans to change data retention laws.
According to the report, a change to the data retention rules could allow police and their local forces to use personal data about UK residents to track down people who have been reported to them and to collect information about people they suspect of committing crimes.
“The UK Government’s plan could create a new form of ‘home surveillance’ that would be used for domestic law enforcement purposes, rather than those of the Crown Prosecution Service,” the BCP said.
“This would lead to a huge increase in the number of potential offenders being tracked, and potentially to criminal prosecutions for non-criminal offences.”
Moreover, the Government will have the power, under Section 12 of the Investigators Powers Act 2000, to force Internet Service Providers to provide personal information about UK citizens to police.
“We have been calling on the Government to drop its plans to introduce this surveillance power, but its failure to do so has been a clear sign of its incompetence, as it has now abandoned the fight against the misuse of personal data.”
“As a result of its failure, the BPI is calling on May to scrap her plan to introduce the data protection law, which would effectively turn the data about the lives of British citizens into a national security threat,” the council added.
Theresa May will address the Bishops conference on Tuesday, as she looks to secure her second consecutive majority in Parliament.