The Conservative Party conference
This was held in Birmingham between 2-5 October, while Liz Truss was still Prime Minister. With Rishi Sunak now leading the country, there may be some changes to the below priorities, but it seems likely that we’ll see a continuation in focus on areas identified under the new Government.
Here is a round-up of the key developments and themes from the Party Conference relating to digital advertising:
- GDPR: The Government announced a commitment to introduce a ‘British data regulation system’. This was included in a speech by Michelle Donelan, current Culture Secretary, with her saying: “I am announcing that we will be replacing GDPR with our own business and consumer-friendly, British data protection system. Our plan will protect consumer privacy and keep their data safe, whilst retaining our data adequacy so businesses can trade freely. And I can promise you here today, Conference, that it will be simpler and clearer for businesses to navigate.” There are currently no details confirmed as to what these changes will look like. The Data Protection and Digital Information Bill was introduced to Parliament in July and is currently on pause, for review by new Ministers. It’s therefore likely that this will change, but we don’t expect a wholesale rewrite of the UK GDPR.
- Collaboration: Many fringe events highlighted the need for the Government to work with the digital sector to ensure that regulation is fit for purpose and agile enough to allow for technological developments. There was a clear desire to create space for innovation, and a recognition of the fact that clumsy regulation has the potential to stifle the market.
- Online Safety Bill (OSB): The OSB remained a point of contention, with several panels arguing that it constitutes major Government overreach and a threat to freedom of speech and online expression. There was a general consensus that leading tech platforms must do more to protect users (and particularly children), but a lack of consensus on whether the OSB is the right vehicle to achieve the goal of a safer, more transparent online experience.
- Competition: There was a general consensus that competition legislation (committed to in the Queen’s Speech in May), is needed to level the playing field in the digital space and to help guard against monopolies that have the potential to reduce the ability of smaller players to access markets.
- Digital skills: There was a real focus on the need to look again at access to education to ensure that companies are able to build the digitally-skilled workforces that are needed for businesses to thrive.
The Labour Party Conference
This was held in Liverpool between 25-28 September. Here are the key themes we took away, related to digital advertising.
- Online Safety Bill: The issue of children’s safety online dominated many of the conversations related to digital. There was broad support for the OSB, but a sense that Government should be taking additional action to: regulate emerging technologies to reduce potential harms; do more to safeguard users, particularly those in their early teens; and educate young people and parents about online safety.
- Digital skills: There was recognition of the need for life-long education opportunities that go beyond university degrees to help the workforce build and develop digital skills. There was also concern expressed about pervasive inequalities in access to digital devices and services, with a commitment to do more (at a local and national level) to support older and vulnerable people to enable them to access and understand the benefits of the internet.
- Data: There was a strong commitment to maintaining data adequacy and recognition of the need to work closely with the EU on developments in the digital space.
Since the Party Conferences, Rishi Sunak has replaced Liz Truss as Prime Minister. Both the Online Safety Bill and Data Protection and Digital Information Bill were paused under Truss’s Government and remain so at the time of writing. We will continue to keep members updated on news relating to these areas, as well as any other relevant policy developments.