Data adequacy agreement talks

On the 7th October, the UK Digital Secretary Michelle Donelan, met with US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo to discuss digital trade between the UK and the USA, and the progression of a new data adequacy agreement to benefit businesses.

Data adequacy agreement talks

Data adequacy agreements allow for the free transfer of personal data between countries who share high data protection standards. 

The UK already has an agreement in place with the European Union and most re-cently, signed one with South Korea. 

Organisations who want to transfer personal data from the UK to the USA at the moment, have to employ costly data transfer processes such as international data transfer agreements, which are administratively time-consuming, and using such processes also delays data flows significantly within businesses. 

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on the 7th October to agree a new framework governing data transfers between Europe and the USA; Michelle Done-lan and Gina Raimondo discussed the UK’s adequacy assessment as part of this new framework. 

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) issued a statement fol-lowing the meeting, stating that Donelan and Raimondo “agreed to conclude the adequacy work in the weeks ahead,” suggesting that an agreement may be immi-nent. 

UK Digital Secretary Michelle Donelan commented on the plans: 

“The United States shares our democratic values, digital priorities and commitment to high standards of data privacy.  Data and tech are cre-ating new opportunities for growth and connection between our two countries, including between our world-leading tech industries. I look forward to working together to bring these benefits to people on both sides of the Atlantic.” 

Privacy Concerns?

The USA Data Privacy Framework (signed by President Joe Biden on 7th October) was agreed following the invalidation of the two previous data sharing agreements by privacy campaigners (now known as the Schrems I and Schrems II rulings). 

Max Schrems challenged the previous agreements due to the significantly lower level of data protection in the USA, in comparison to that of the GDPR in Europe. American gov-ernment agencies were permitted to extract data from private company’s servers as part of investigative procedures - the European court ruled that this was detrimental to the rights of their citizens. 

There are concerns that an adequacy agreement between the UK and the USA may leave British citizens’ data similarly exposed, however the DCMS has assured in their statement that “robust protections will be in place for UK data under a potential agreement.” 

The new Data Privacy Framework may still be challenged in court however, as Schrems has voiced criticism of it already. 

The UK’s wider data protection reforms

Any new data adequacy agreement between the UK and the USA would form part of wid-er data protection reforms currently taking place in the UK, with the focus on moving away from the GDPR and into a more specific, flexible set of data protection laws designed with the UK in mind.  

The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill was due to be debated in parliament in October, however it has been on hold since Liz Truss came into power as Prime Minister, and remains on hold as Rishi Sunak has since taken up the role. As the UK looks to sepa-rate itself from retained EU Law and the influences of it’s relationship with the European Union, it remains to be seen how data adequacy agreements with countries such as the USA may now take shape. 

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