What could a Labour Government mean for Data Protection?

Published on: 27/06/2024

#Data Protection

As we approach the 2024 General Election, the polls are suggesting a likely win for Labour and a resulting change in government. In the last week, parties including Labour have released their election manifestos. Labour’s manifesto includes some pledges which directly impact the Data Protection sphere, both for businesses and for individuals. Getting to grips with what these manifesto pledges may mean in reality can be daunting, so please read on for our key take-aways on what Labour proposes, and what a Labour Government may mean for Data Protection.

Data Protection Legislation

When the general election was called, the Conservative’s Data Protection and Digital Information Bill failed to make it through parliament before it was dissolved. We have not seen a general opposition to the bill from Labour in the past, however their manifesto is silent on data protection reform in general.

The manifesto is clear that part of the intention of the Labour party is to realign UK and EU relations. Any regulations which seek to diverge significantly from EU Data Protection laws is unlikely to fit this political outlook. We are therefore predicting that if reform does come, it will be further in keeping with changes we have seen from our EU counterparts, particularly concerning AI regulation.

AI Regulation

Whilst general reform of UK GDPR is unlikely under Labour, we should expect to see legislation to regulate AI introduced under a Labour government. Labour have been relatively vocal on the approach to AI regulation, and have stated that Conservative proposals did not go far enough, opting for a wait-and-see approach, over a more proactive approach seen in the EU.

In their manifesto, they have pledged to create a new Regulatory Innovation Office which is intended to help update regulation and co-ordinate this across sectors. Further, the manifesto proposes to introduce binding regulation intended to ensure “the safe development and use of AI models”. They have said that this will apply to the handful of companies developing the most powerful AI models. The manifesto is silent on when regulations will be enacted which suggests that this is not something to be expected in the first few months.

The manifesto has also specifically referred to developing regulation to ban the creation of sexually explicit deepfakes, however it is yet unclear what this regulation will look like, the penalties to be imposed, or how this will be enforced in practice.

Data Centres

As part of their pledge to kickstart economic growth, Labour have proposed to support the development of the AI sector, including removing planning barriers to new data centres. Data centres are physical facilities used to house computer systems used for largescale computing and storage to enable the delivery of shared applications and data. They are intrinsic for secure data storage and processing power needed to support businesses and private use of programmes in our daily lives. The development of these in the UK therefore goes hand in hand with developing AI industry in the UK, and the pledge has been welcomed by tech companies.

Combining pledges for support and growth in the sector, with the above pledge for tighter regulation is a smart move that will comfort many who were concerned about how this booming industry is going to be governed as it grows. It is likely that we will see these two pledges come hand in hand to ensure that any growth has the necessary protections and regulations.

Sensitive Personal Data

One of the key policies of the Labour manifesto relates to updating the NHS. As part of this, they have pledged to “harness the power of technologies like AI”. For many people, this will raise concerns about data security and how their sensitive medical data is being processed by AI systems. However, it is important to note that the NHS has already utilised AI technology in various areas, such as stroke detection, and that whilst any new policies pushing for further use will have to be sensitive to GDPR issues, the use of such technology has been proved to be vital for speed, accuracy and saving lives.

Online Safety Act

Finally, Labour have pledged that they will build on the provision of the Online Safety Act, which saw new duties imposed on social media companies and search services to make them responsible for their users’ safety on their platforms. They have said that they will look to bring the provisions forward “as quickly as possible” and will look for further measures that can be employed to keep everyone safe online.

It will therefore be a matter of waiting to see which of these pledges takes precedence under a Labour government, but we can be assured that should they form the new government in July, it will be one in which the AI sector and accompanying data protection challenges, plays a key role.


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