Right not to be subject to automated decision-making

Data Protection Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 15th March 2018.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Economy)

We had a good debate on possible amendments to the powers of automatic decision making earlier and this is an important clause in that it creates a right not to be subject to automated decision making. Clause 49(1) states:

“A controller may not take a significant decision based solely on automated processing unless that decision is required or authorised by law.”

I hope Ministers recognise that

“required or authorised by law” is an incredibly broad set of questions. I would like to provoke the Minister into saying a little more about what safeguards she believes will come into place to ensure that decisions are not taken that jeopardise somebody’s human rights and their right to appeal and justice based on those human rights. It could be that the Minister decides to answer those questions in the debate on clause 50, but it would be useful for her to say a little more about her understanding of the phrase “significant decision” and a little more about what kind of safeguards will be needed to ensure that decisions that are cast in such a broad way do not impact on people in a negative way.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

Clause 49 establishes the right for individuals not to be subject to a decision based exclusively on automated processing, where that decision has an adverse impact on the individual. It is important to protect that right to enhance confidence in law enforcement processing and safeguard individuals against the risk that a potentially damaging decision is taken without human intervention. The right hon. Gentleman asked about the definition of a significant decision. It is set out in the Bill.

We are not aware of any examples of the police solely using automated decision-making methods, but there may be examples in other competent authorities. The law enforcement directive includes that requirement, so we want to transpose it faithfully into statute, and we believe we have captured the spirit of the requirement.

Photo of Louise Haigh Louise Haigh Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing) 3:00 pm, 15th March 2018

There is the example of Durham police force—an excellent police force in many regards—using automated decision making to decide who does and does not remain in custody, and when people receive their charge. A human is involved in that decision-making process at the moment, but the Bill would enable that to be taken away and allow it to be done purely on an automated basis. I am sure the Minister understands our concerns about removing humans from that decision-making process.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I have to say that I am not familiar with that example. I look to my officials—

Order. The hon. Lady has on a number of occasions referred to her officials. She should remember at all times that, as far as the Committee is concerned, there are no officials in this room, even though self-evidently there are.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Minister for Women

I wonder whether that is captured in the spirit of the Bill. Forgive me, Mr Hanson. This is my first Bill Committee as a Minister and I was not aware of that. Many apologies.

I am not familiar with that example. It would be a very interesting exercise under the PACE custody arrangements. I will look into it in due course. These protections transpose the law enforcement directive, and we are confident that they meet those requirements.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 49 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 50