Data Protection Bill [HL] - Committee (3rd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 13th November 2017.

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Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 6:45 pm, 13th November 2017

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, who introduced this interesting debate; of course, I recognise his authority and his newfound expertise in artificial intelligence from being chairman of the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence. I am sure that he is an expert anyway, but it will only increase his expertise. I thank other noble Lords for their contributions, which raise important issues about the increasing use of automated decision-making, particularly in the online world. It is a broad category, including everything from personalised music playlists to quotes for home insurance and far beyond that.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, before speaking to his amendments, warned about some of the things that we need to think about. He contrasted the position on human embryology and fertility research and the HFEA, which is not exactly parallel because, of course, the genie is out of the bottle in that respect, and things were prevented from happening at least until the matter was debated. But I take what the noble Lord said and agree with the issues that he raised. I think that we will discuss in a later group some of the ideas about how we debate those broader issues.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, talked about how she hoped that the repressive bits would be removed from the Bill. I did not completely understand her point, as this Bill is actually about giving data subjects increased rights, both in the GDPR and the law enforcement directive. That will take direct effect, but we are also applying those GDPR rights to other areas not subject to EU jurisdiction. I shall come on to her amendment on the Human Rights Act in a minute—but we agree with her that human beings should be involved in significant decisions. That is exactly what the Bill tries to do. We realise that data subjects should have rights when they are confronted by significant decisions made about them by machines.

The Bill recognises the need to ensure that such processing is correctly regulated. That is why it includes safeguards, such as the right to be informed of automated processing as soon as reasonably practicable and the right to challenge an automated decision made by the controller. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, alluded to some of these things. We believe that Clauses 13, 47, 48, 94 and 95 provide adequate and proportionate safeguards to protect data subjects of all ages, adults as well as children. I can give some more examples, because it is important to recognise data rights. For example, Clause 47 is clear that individuals should not be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing if that decision significantly and adversely impacts on them, either legally or otherwise, unless required by law. If that decision is required by law, Clause 48 specifies the safeguards that controllers should apply to ensure the impact on the individual is minimised. Critically, that includes informing the data subject that a decision has been taken and providing them 21 days within which to ask the controller to reconsider the decision or retake the decision with human intervention.

I turn to Amendments 74, 134 and 136, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, which seek to insert into Parts 2 and 3 of the Bill a definition of the term,

“based solely on automated processing”,

to provide that human intervention must be meaningful. I do not disagree with the meaning of the phrase put forward by the noble Lord. Indeed, I think that that is precisely the meaning that that phrase already has. The test here is what type of processing the decision having legal or significant effects is based on. Mere human presence or token human involvement will not be enough. The purported human involvement has to be meaningful; it has to address the basis for the decision. If a decision was based solely on automated processing, it could not have meaningful input by a natural person. On that basis, I am confident that there is no need to amend the Bill to clarify this definition further.

In relation to Amendments 74A and 133A, the intention here seems to be to prevent any automated decision-making that impacts on a child. By and large, the provisions of the GDPR and of the Bill, Clause 8 aside, apply equally to all data subjects, regardless of age. We are not persuaded of the case for different treatment here. The important point is that the stringent safeguards in the Bill apply equally to all ages. It seems odd to suggest that the NHS could, at some future point, use automated decision-making, with appropriate safeguards, to decide on the eligibility for a particular vaccine—