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Data Protection Reform 

On Friday 22nd March 2024, the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law (CIPIL) held its Annual Spring Conference entitled 'Data Protection Reform'.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as developed by the European Union has generally been seen as the “gold standard” for the protection of personal information globally.  It has consolidated or even established a set of theoretically high benchmarks especially in the areas of transparency and control rights, the definition of consent and finally sensitive categories and contexts of data processing.  

Nevertheless, two sets of concerns have emerged within its first half decade.  Firstly that, in the context of a sporadic and difficult enforcement environment, the law has been poorly implemented in practice.  Secondly, and more fundamentally, that this instrument imposes an overly prescriptive, one-size-fits-all model which is ill-suited to the very varied scale, risks and technological, economic and social contexts of personal data processing in today’s environment.

The latter set of concerns have proved particularly influential in post-Brexit Britain which, despite initially mirroring the EU GDPR, moved on to a Data: A New Direction law reform initiative which spawned the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill which is now well through its Parliamentary passage.

This conference explored both the current and future landscape of UK data protection and the broader debate on whether EU-style data protection requires reform and, if so, in what direction.  In each case, there were sessions exploring both substantive norms and the enforcement landscape.  


Session 1 – UK Data Protection – The Changing Substantive Landscape

Introduction to Conference: Professor David Erdos, CIPIL
Chair: Dr Jennifer Cobbe, CIPIL
Dr Michael Veale, University College London 
Gavin Freeguard, Policy Associate, Connected by Data (slides)
Vivienne Artz, Data Strategy & Privacy Policy Advisor to CIPL (slides)


Session 2 – UK Data Protection – The Changing Enforcement Landscape 

Chair: Jon Baines, Mishcon
Professor David Erdos, CIPIL (slides)
Claudia Berg, General Counsel, Information Commissioner's Office
Jim Killock, Open Rights Group (slides)


Session 3 – Reforming Data Protection – Substantive Perspectives (Keynotes) 

Chair: Professor David Erdos, CIPIL
Dr Winfried Veil, Data Protection Landscape (slides)
Professor Bert-Jaap Koops, Tilburg University (slides)
Professor Nadja Purtova, Utrecht University (slides)


Session 4 – Reforming Data Protection – Enforcement Perspectives

Chair: Dr Jennifer Cobbe, CIPIL
Dr Orla Lynskey, London School of Economics (slides)
Dr Johnny Ryan, Irish Council for Civil Liberties
Dr Luca Tosoni, Norwegian Data Protection Authority
Professor Gloria Gonzalez Fuster, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (slides)