What do we know about proposed changes to UK GDPR?

Posted on: Monday 06 September 2021 | IAB UK

The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, has announced that the Government is planning to change aspects of UK GDPR following Brexit - so what can advertisers expect?

Update, Friday 10 September 2021: The Government has now published its public consultation on reforms to the UK’s data protection regime, closing on 19 November 2021. Find out more about the consultation here and read more from Christie Dennehy-Neil, our Head of Policy & Regulatory Affairs, via Marketing Week


Digital privacy rules should be based on “common sense, not box-ticking”, Oliver Dowden said, announcing that the Government is setting out proposals to remove some of the “red tape” of GDPR now that the UK is no longer part of the EU. Speaking to The Telegraph, Dowden referred to this as the “data dividend” of Brexit. 

For the digital ad industry, the biggest change is that the proposals stand to remove the requirement to have cookie banner requests on every website visited. More broadly, it would mean less of a “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to requiring people to repeatedly provide consent to access personal data for similar functions to which they have already granted it. For example, allowing scientists undertaking research to marginally alter their original plans without seeking fresh permission. 

In short, Dowden said: “There’s an awful lot of needless bureaucracy and box ticking and actually we should be looking at how we can focus on protecting people’s privacy, but in as light a touch way as possible.”

So what does this mean for digital advertisers? Writing for Campaign, our Head of Policy & Regulatory Affairs, Christie Dennehy-Neil, explains: “It’s hard to argue with a policy that aims to improve consumers’ online experience. A more pragmatic and risk-based approach to data controls would likely enhance people’s experience of the digital environment, benefitting advertising. 

“However, GDPR and ePrivacy controls (yes, including the pop-ups) play a valuable role in allowing consumers to manage how their data is used, and the government will need to ensure that any changes don’t erode consumer trust. UK-specific changes could also create a more complex and disjointed digital ecosystem for advertisers that operate across global markets.

“Lastly, it’s imperative that changes to current practice do not endanger the UK’s data adequacy with the EU – doing so could freeze data transfers between the EU and UK. 

“While we don’t yet have all the details about the proposed changes, the government has emphasised the need for continuing high standards of data protection, so adland shouldn’t expect a wholesale roll back of GDPR in the UK.”

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