Government reintroduces GDPR replacement bill with new reforms for marketers

The reformed bill has a number of implications for marketers, including further clarification around legitimate interest, changes to cookie consent exemptions, and a reduction in compliance paperwork.

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The UK government is introducing its revised Data Protection and Digital Information Bill to parliament today, including further clarity for marketers around key data and privacy concerns.

The bill, which the Government says is a “common-sense led” version of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), promises to reduce costs and burdens for British businesses and charities, while ensuring privacy and data protection remains in place.

The bill was first introduced under the previous government last summer, but was paused in September for further consultation with industry.

The latest version provides more clarity around legitimate interest for marketers. Under GDPR, controllers of data were able to utilise it without explicit consent if they had legitimate interest to do so, but many businesses lacked the confidence to rely on this as their legal basis for data collection for marketing.

Attracting and retaining customers and donors through direct marketing is now identified as a legitimate interest in the bill. However, customers will retain the right to object to marketing should they wish to.

It’s a reform the Data and Marketing Association has campaigned for over several years. UK CEO Chris Combemale, who chaired the Business Advisory Group during the most recent phase of consultation, says the organisation is pleased with the outcome:

“Attracting and retaining customers and donors is a fundamental legitimate interest of businesses and charities, so we are delighted the government has acknowledged this in the reforms to help drive innovation and growth,” he says.

The bill also puts forward an expanded range of exemptions to consent for cookies, which will reduce the need for consent banners, especially for ecommerce and charity websites. The idea is this will improve the customer experience while reducing “unnecessary red tape”.

We are confident that the bill should act as a catalyst for innovation and growth, while maintaining robust privacy protections across the UK.

Chris Combemale, DMA

The amount of paperwork marketers need to complete to demonstrate compliance will also be reduced in several areas, which will be especially beneficial to smaller organisations, the DMA says.

Meanwhile, there is an extension of the soft opt-in for email to non-commercial organisations, which will enable charities to communicate with existing donors and volunteers.

Combemale adds: “We are confident that the bill should act as a catalyst for innovation and growth, while maintaining robust privacy protections across the UK – an essential balance which will build consumer trust in the digital economy.”

For ISBA, which represents the interests of advertisers in the UK, the reformed bill has made some progress towards balancing privacy concerns and enabling brands to measure reach and impact, but more is required.

Rob Newman, director of public affairs at ISBA, says:  “At first glance, the bill represents a useful relaxation of some burdensome obligations, and welcome clarity on ‘legitimate interest’; but there is still work to do to enable advertising measurement and analytics to be carried out.

“We also look forward to seeing the framework under which individuals will be able to prove their identity digitally, which could have implications for advertisers who sell age-restricted products.”

The IAB UK also has concerns and is urging the government to extend cookie consent exemptions to advertising measurement and analytics, which it deems “necessary, non-intrusive functions”.

“This would achieve the risk-based and proportionate approach to cookie consent that the government wants. In its current form, the bill doesn’t make the most of this opportunity for meaningful change,” says head of policy and regulatory affairs, Christie Dennehy-Neil.

How changes to cookie consent mechanisms will be developed and implemented is also cause for concern for the digital ad industry, she adds, explaining: “Appropriate checks and balances need to be in place to ensure that such changes will actually improve the user experience, avoid the risk of negative impacts on competition in the market, and protect the viability of the ad-funded business model our open web relies on.”

Nevertheless, science, innovation and technology secretary Michelle Donelan claims the new regime will be “easier to understand” and “easier to comply with”.

“Our new laws release British businesses from unnecessary red tape to unlock new discoveries, drive forward next generation technologies, create jobs and boost our economy,” she says.Marketing bodies call for ‘swift clarity’ over government’s decision to split DCMS

Additional reforms in the bill include making it easier for scientific research to reuse data, new clarification around the use of AI technologies, and the creation of a statutory board for the UK’s independent data regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The news comes just weeks after the government overhauled its ministerial departments, taking responsibility for digital away from what was the DCMS and turning it into the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, led by new secretary Lucy Frazer.

Former culture secretary Michelle Donelan left to head up the newly-created Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, after less than a year in her previous role. Created to accelerate Sunak’s vision of turning the UK into the next Silicon Valley, the department will “drive the innovation that will deliver public services, create new and better-paid jobs, and grow the economy”.