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Digital Economy Act comes into law


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Worries about implications for data protection persist after amended legislation receives royal assent

The Digital Economy Bill has been passed into law, squeezed into the final few pieces of legislation before the dissolution of Parliament to make way for the general election.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced that the bill had received royal assent to become an act of Parliament.

A spokesperson told UKAuthority that the timetable for implementing different elements of the act would be decided when the next Government is formed after the general election on 8 June.

Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Matt Hancock, said: “This legislation will help build a more connected and stronger economy. The act will enable major improvements in broadband rollout, better support for consumers, better protection for children on the internet, and further transformation of government services.”

The DCMS highlighted provisions including those directed at improving the UK’s broadband infrastructure. They include: every household having a legal right to request a fast broadband connected; consumers and businesses to have better information about communications services, switching and compensation if things go wrong; and simplified planning rules to help cut the costs of new infrastructure. 

Privacy protests

The bill provides a framework for different parts of government and private companies to share individuals’ data. It stirred up protests during its passage through Parliament, notably last November when a group of academics, privacy activists and officials of professional organisations signed an open letter to the Daily Telegraph claiming it would weaken the protection of sensitive information.

One of the leading signees, co-chair of the Cabinet Office’s Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group Jerry Fishenden, told UKAuthority he believed that amendments made in the Lords has improved the legislation but not fixed all of the issues.

“And the biggest issue remains whether the codes of practice are going to be radically overhauled given their previously disappointingly amateurish and technically illiterate state,” he said.

Earlier this year the head of the Civil Service John Manzoni, insisted the legislation would provide the right legal framework for sharing data and help to create public trust. He highlighted the potential for authorities to share information with energy companies to identify customers living in fuel poverty, and the use of data in the Troubled Families Programme.

Image by Brett Jordan, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

Additions were made to this article on 2 May on extra information received


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