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February 22, 2021updated 25 Feb 2021 9:43am

Tech industry welcomes European Commission’s data adequacy decision

By Ellen Daniel

The UK tech industry has welcomed the European Commission’s draft decision for a data adequacy agreement with the UK.

Data adequacy determines whether a country’s data privacy regulations adequately protect EU citizens’ data. The decision has been a long-awaited part of the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU as it affects data flows between EU and Uk companies.

Dependant on approval from EU member states, the draft decision will allow the personal data of EU citizens to be transferred between the EU and the UK without being subject to any further conditions.

The decision applies to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the other for the Law Enforcement Directive (LED) and follows an assessment of the UK’s law and practice related to personal data protection.

In the UK, the processing of data is governed by the so-called “UK GDPR” and the Data Protection Act 2018, which are based on the EU GDPR and the LED. The European Commission has determined that these laws provide “similar safeguards, individual rights, obligations for controllers and processors, rules on international transfers, supervision system and redress avenues” as the equivalent EU laws.

In January 2021, the UK determined that EU law offers adequate protect for UK citizens’ data, meaning that data can be transferred from the UK to the EU.

The draft data adequacy decision has been welcomed by the tech industry in both the UK and the EU. If the UK was considered a ‘third country’, meaning that data transfer can only occur if there is an agreement between organisations, it would create many additional hurdles when it comes to the transfer and processing of data.

Russ Shaw CBE, founder of Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates, said:

“Brexit was not ‘done’ for the thousands of businesses that exchange data with the EU and were facing significant regulatory changes, not to mention extra costs. This is a landmark decision for UK businesses, where a failure to achieve agreement could have spelt disaster.

“For the UK over 70% of cross-border data flows into the EU, meaning it is essential that it goes unimpeded. The UK has huge potential to emerge from this current crisis as one of the world’s major tech hubs – an effective data arrangement with our largest neighbours is absolutely essential for achieving that.

“Tech startups and early-stage firms were those in the firing line and would have been hit hardest by the costs and disruption had significant new compliance measures been needed. This new agreement will be welcomed by the UK’s most innovative companies and those that will be play a critical role in supporting economic recovery and creating the jobs of the future. The government should be applauded for its work in prioritising a data adequacy agreement and working with Brussels to achieve the desired outcome for both parties.”

Felicity Burch, innovation director at CBI, said:

“This decision is a huge step towards securing the free flow of data between the UK and the EU, which is critical for businesses across the economy from automotive to logistics.

“The ruling is a testament to the UK’s commitment to high data protection standards. Both sides can now build on this momentum by focusing all efforts on ratifying the adequacy assessment to avoid a costly data cliff-edge and provide much needed certainty for firms across the economy.”

Stephen Kelly, chair of Tech Nation, said:

“The positive adequacy decision between the UK and the EU therefore brings great news to the tech sector, following months of waiting and contingency planning in the bridging period. It supports the continued growth of tech scaleups and the position of the UK as a global leader in data-driven technologies. As we look ahead at building back better, the international flow of data will be vital to fuelling the next wave of business innovation and driving transformation in our society.”


Read More: Data adequacy: Bracing for cross-border friction post-Brexit.