Data and securityHouse of Lords push to create a super regulator

House of Lords push to create a super regulator

The report hopes that the industry will welcome the recommendations for their own long-term interest or they run the risk of further action being taken.

The House of Lords Communications Committee has recommended a new regulatory framework for digital services in the UK as part of the government’s Internet Safety Strategy.

The recommendation, made in the Regulating in a digital world report, prescribes creating a new body with access to the highest level of the Government.

The report highlights the gap in digital regulation since there are over a dozen individual regulators but no specific content regulator for the internet. As the report states, the services that constitute the digital world should be held accountable through this new body. It can also bring them together to an agreed and enforceable set of principles.

Digital Authority: The new digital watchdog

The motive of the committee report is to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online. It intends to create an environment that is intolerant towards online activities like misuse of personal data, abuse, and hateful speech.

The report said: “Responses to growing public concern have been piecemeal, whereas they should be continually reviewed as part of a wider strategy. A new framework for regulatory action is needed. We recommend that a new body, which we call the Digital Authority, be established to instruct and coordinate regulators.

“The Digital Authority would have the remit to continually assess regulation in the digital world and make recommendations on where additional powers are necessary to fill gaps. The Digital Authority would also bring together non-statutory organisations with duties in this area.”

The following gaps have been highlighted by the report:

  • Establishing an internal centre of expertise on digital trends which helps to scan the horizon for emerging risks and gaps in regulation
  • Helping regulators to implement the law effectively and in the public interest, in line with the 10 principles set out in this report
  • Informing Parliament, the Government and public bodies of technological developments
  • Providing a pool of expert investigators to be consulted by regulators for specific investigations
  • Surveying the public to identify how their attitudes to technology change over time, and to ensure that the concerns of the public are taken into account by regulators and policy-makers
  • Raising awareness of issues connected to the digital world among the public
  • Engaging with the tech sector
  • Ensuring that human rights and children’s rights are upheld in the digital world
  • Liaising with European and international bodies responsible for internet regulation

Principles for regulation

The report recommends 10 principles to guide the development of regulation online:

  1. Parity: the same level of protection must be provided online as offline
  2. Accountability: processes must be in place to ensure individuals and organisations are held to account for their actions and policies
  3. Transparency: powerful businesses and organisations operating in the digital world must be open to scrutiny
  4. Openness: the internet must remain open to innovation and competition
  5. Privacy: to protect the privacy of individuals
  6. Ethical design: services must act in the interests of users and society
  7. Recognition of childhood: to protect the most vulnerable users of the internet
  8. Respect for human rights and equality: to safeguard the freedoms of expression and information online
  9. Education and awareness-raising: to enable people to navigate the digital world safely
  10. Democratic accountability, proportionality, and evidence-based approach

These principles will help the industry, regulators, the Government and users work towards a common goal of making the internet better. It would create an environment that is more respectful and is beneficial to all.

With these principles, the internet would remain open to innovation and creativity. Also, a new culture of ethical behaviour would be embedded in the design of services.

Recommended structure and frequency of reporting

The House of Lords Communications Committee  feels that the new body should report to the Cabinet Office and be overseen at the highest level. The Digital Authority will co-ordinate regulators across different sectors and multiple government departments.

Apart from providing advice to the Government, it’s recommended that the Digital Authority should report to Parliament on a quarterly basis. The report concludes that the combined force of the Digital Authority and the joint committee, proposed to be established comprising of both the Houses, will bring a new consistency and urgency to regulation.

The House of Lords has also urged for a need for strictest privacy and safety settings. As of now, the default settings make for financial sense putting privacy to the backseat. The users can be given the option of voluntarily lowering the settings if they wish.

“The Information Commissioner’s Office should provide guidance requiring platforms to provide greater choice to users to control how their data are collected and used,” the report’s authors’ added.

Recent data and security developments have seen the introduction of more governance. The NHS got an AI code of conduct to ensure that only the best and safest data-driven technologies are used by the NHS and will protect patient data. Meanwhile, an independent Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group had published ethical principles to guide police facial recognition trials.

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