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Big tech wants the ICO on EU data protection board in Brexit fallout

Watchdog keeping voting rights 'huge gain' for marketing sector, say Facebook, Google et al

By Rebecca Hill

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The advertising lobby and tech megacorps including Facebook and Twitter are pushing for the UK's data protection watchdog to have full voting rights on a new, powerful European board after Brexit.

At the moment, European Union data protection agencies, along with the European Data Protection Supervisor and the European Commission, form the Article 29 Working Party.

But once the General Data Protection Regulation comes into force on May 25, this will be replaced with the European Data Protection Board.

This body will have broadly the same role, but more legal independence from the Commission and its guidance and recommendations are expected to have greater heft.

As part of its "adequacy plus" plans, the UK government has said it wants the Information Commissioner's Office to have an "ongoing role... in EU regulatory fora".

This has been understood to mean it wants the ICO to have the power to influence and vote on decisions the board makes – rather than having it simply attend meetings as an observer.

In a letter (PDF) sent to Brexit secretary David Davis, big names including Google, Facebook and Twitter – along with bodies like the Direct Marketing Association and the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing – made it clear they also want the ICO to keep its voice.

The deal, they said, should allow the ICO "to continue to participate fully in the European Data Protection Board, including allowing the ICO full voting rights, and allow UK consumers access to the one-stop shop mechanism under the General Data Protection Regulation".

Some of the signatories – such as the Internet Advertising Bureau UK – are Brit bodies, but it's worth noting that a number of the organisations putting their name to the letter are global.

Despite a handful not being famed for their cosy relationships with regulators, the letter stated that the move would be a big win for their industry.

"Striking such a deal would be a huge gain for the entire UK economy but in particular for our world-beating marketing and advertising sector, which relies on being able to exchange personal data freely across EU borders," they wrote.

However, it's not clear whether member states will go for the idea – or if the UK will be granted its other request that the EU gives early approval of its data protection framework, which it wants to ensure data can still flow between countries immediately after Brexit. ®

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