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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 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 7:00 pm, 13th November 2017

Automated processing could do that. However, with the appropriate safeguards we have put in the Bill, we do not think that it will.

Amendment 77 seeks to define a significant decision as including a decision that has legal or similar effects for the data subject or a group sharing one of the nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 to which the data subject belongs.

We agree that all forms of discrimination, including discriminatory profiling via the use of algorithms and automated processing, are fundamentally wrong. However, we note that the Equality Act already provides a safeguard for individuals against being profiled on the basis of a particular protected characteristic they possess. Furthermore, recital 71 of the GDPR states that data controllers must ensure that they use appropriate mathematical or statistical procedures to ensure that factors which result in inaccuracies are minimised, and to prevent discriminatory effects on individuals,

“on the basis of racial or ethnic origin, political opinion, religion or beliefs, trade union membership, genetic or health status or sexual orientation”.

We therefore do not feel that further provision is needed at this stage.

Amendment 77A, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, seeks to require a data controller who makes a significant decision based on automated processing to provide meaningful information about the logical and legal consequences of the processing. Amendment 119, as I understand it, talks to a similar goal, with the added complication of driving a wedge between the requirements of the GDPR and applied GDPR. Articles 13 and 14 of the GDPR, replicated in the applied GDPR, already require data controllers to provide data subjects with this same information at the point the data is collected, and whenever it is processed for a new purpose. We are not convinced that there is much to be gained from requiring data controllers to repeat such an exercise, other than regulatory burden. In fact, the GDPR requires the information earlier, which allows the data subject to take action earlier.

Similarly, Amendment 77B seeks to ensure that data subjects who are the subject of automated decision-making retain the right to make a complaint to the commissioner and to access judicial remedies. Again, this provision is not required in the Bill, as data subjects retain the right to make a complaint to the commissioner or access judicial remedies for any infringement of data protection law.

Amendment 78 would confer powers on the Secretary of State to review the operational effectiveness of article 22 of the GDPR within three years, and lay a report on the review before Parliament. This amendment is not required because all new primary legislation is subject to post-legislative scrutiny within three to five years of receiving Royal Assent. Any review of the Act will necessarily also cover the GDPR. Not only that, but the Information Commissioner will keep the operation of the Act and the GDPR under review and will no doubt flag up any issues that may arise on this or other areas.

Amendment 153A would place a requirement on the Information Commissioner to investigate, keep under review and publish guidance on several matters relating to the use of automated data in the health and social care sector in respect of the terms on which enterprises gain consent to the disclosure of the personal data of vulnerable adults. I recognise and share noble Lords’ concern. These are areas where there is a particular value in monitoring the application of a new regime and where further clarity may be beneficial. I reassure noble Lords that the Information Commissioner has already contributed significantly to GDPR guidance being developed by the health sector and continues to work closely with the Government to identify appropriate areas requiring further guidance. Adding additional prescriptive requirements in the Bill is unlikely to help them shape that work in a way that maximises its impact.

As we have heard, Amendment 183 would insert a new clause before Clause 171 stating that public bodies who profile a data subject should inform the data subject of their decision. This is unnecessary as Clauses 13 and 48 state that when a data controller has taken a decision based solely on automated processing, they must inform the data subject in writing that they have done so. This includes profiling. Furthermore, Clauses 13 and 48 confer powers on the Secretary of State to make further provisions to provide suitable measures to safeguard a data subject’s rights and freedoms.

I thank noble Lords for raising these important issues, which deserve to be debated. I hope that, as a result of the explanation in response to these amendments, I have been able to persuade them that there are sufficient safeguards in relation to automated decision-making in the GDPR and Parts 2 to 4 of the Bill, and that their amendments are therefore unnecessary. On that basis, I invite noble Lords not to press their amendments.