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Mandarins plotted to water down EU data protection regs

Moving to ensure grip on citizen data even before we voted Leave

European flag with sad face

Exclusive Even before Blighty voted to leave the EU, the government was plotting to water down far-reaching data protection regulations from Brussels - The Register can reveal.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was due to come into place by 2018 and have been described as the biggest shake-up of EU data protection laws in decades. Among other things they included tougher penalties for companies in breach of EU data protection law, with fines of up to four per cent of global turnover.

However, according to a leaked email seen by The Register mandarins had already been moving to minimise the impact on the regs - mainly to enable civil servants to more freely share citizens' data.

The email from data protection officials in HMRC said the department was hoping to put in place "exemptions" from the GDPR.

It said: "Pending June's vote, the UK government has outlined plans to enhance arrangements around the sharing of citizen data within the public sector in the aim of improving people's welfare and reducing fraud.

"This pre-empts exemptions for the public sector catered for in the new Regulation. These plans raise questions about the public sector's commitment to best practices in data protection."

It noted the "early priority is to consider how best to exercise the discretions given to Member States through the Regulation at various points." In other words, how it could get round the regulations and push ahead with its own data sharing plans.

Government plans to increase the sharing of citizen data have already been heavily criticised - particularly in light of the ongoing Care.data controversy.

Whitehall is due to publish a response to the consultation, set out in Better Use of Data - Consultation Paper, which recently closed following a two-year series of “open policy” meetings.

The proposals to “data share” and expand the pool of people and organisations able to access citizens’ personal data have worrying been described and vague and verbose by experts. ®

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