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Digital minister admits new Data Protection Bill won’t guarantee ethical use of data

Digital minister Matt Hancock has warned that the new Data Protection Bill will not guarantee that firms treat data ethically.

In a wide-ranging speech at the Internet Governance Forum, Hancock today suggested that the ethical use of data would depend on moral boundaries, as well as the draft legislation, which will be published tomorrow.

“With AI and machine learning, data use is moving fast. Good use of data isn’t just about complying with the regulations, it’s about the ethical use of data too,” he said.

“So good governance of data isn’t just about legislation – as important as that is – it’s also about establishing ethical norms and boundaries, as a society,” he added.

Hancock said that ethical data governance would form a key part of the government’s new Digital Charter, which aims to strike a balance between freedom and responsibility online.

The inaugural minister for digital explained that the charter would aspire to create a “fair economic landscape online”, highlighting the news industry’s failure to find a sustainable model.

“The news media, and the high quality journalism that provides such a vital public service, has yet to find such a sustainable business model, and we must work together to get there,” said Hancock.

The government revealed a statement of intent for the new Data Protection Bill in August. It is expected to give citizens the right to ask companies to delete their data.

The Bill will also adopt the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation, a move that was broadly welcomed by industry when it was announced last month.

Julian David, CEO of trade body techUK, said: “[It] puts the UK in a strong position to secure unhindered data flows once it has left the EU, and gives businesses the clarity they need about their new obligations.”