Right not to be subject to automated decision-making

Data Protection Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 20th March 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

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 are rattling through the Bill this morning and will soon reach clause 109, to which we have tabled some amendments. Clause 96, within chapter 3 of part 4, on intelligence services processing, touches on the right not to be subject to automated decision making. I do not want to rehearse the debate that we shall have later, but I think that this is the appropriate point for an explanation from the Minister. Perhaps she will say something about the kind of administration that the clause covers, and its relationship, if any—there may not be one, but it is important to test that question—to automated data-gathering by our intelligence services abroad, and the processing and use of that data.

The specific instance that I want to take up concerns the fact that about 700 British citizens have gone to fight in foreign conflicts—for ISIS in particular. The battery of intelligence-gathering facilities that we have allows us to use remote data-sensing to detect, track and monitor them, and to assemble pictures of their patterns of life and behaviour. It is then possible for our intelligence services to do stuff with those data and patterns, such as transfer them to the military or to foreign militaries in coalitions of which we are a member. For the benefit of the Committee, will the Minister spell out whether the clause, and potentially clause 97, will bite on that kind of capability? If not, where are they aimed?

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

An intelligence services example under clause 96 would be a case where the intelligence services wanted to identify a subject of interest who might have travelled to Syria in a certain time window and where the initial selector was age, because there was reliable reporting that the person being sought was a certain age. The application of the age selector would produce a pool of results, and a decision may be taken to select that pool for further processing operations, including the application of other selectors. That processing would be the result of a decision taken solely on the basis of automated processing.

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

I do not think the clause actually says anything about age selection. How do we set boundaries around the clause? Let us say that minors—people under the age of 18—want to travel to Syria or some other war zone. Is the Minister basically saying that the clause will bite on that kind of information and lead to a decision chain that results in action to intervene? If that is the case, will she say a little more about the boundaries around the use of the clause?

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

The right hon. Gentleman asked me for an example and I provided one. Age is not in the clause because the Government do not seek in any way to create burdens for the security services when they are trying to use data to protect this country. Given his considerable experience in the Home Office, he knows that it would be very peculiar, frankly, for age to be listed specifically in the clause. The clause is drafted as it is, and I remind him that it complies with Council of Europe convention 108, which is an international agreement.

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

The point is that the clause does create a burden. It does not detract from a burden; it creates an obligation on intelligence services to ensure that there is not automatic decision making. We seek not to add burdens, but to question why the Minister is creating them.

I think we have come to a natural conclusion.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 96 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 97