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A new design for a new era: UK Data and Law and Regulation in 2022 – less, but better?

We are anticipating big changes ahead in the UK’s data legal and regulatory landscape. Now outside of the European Union, the UK government has big ambitions for data, which it regards as a “strategic asset”, with plans to “capitalise on its independent status and repatriated powers to operate a pro-growth and innovation-friendly regime that maintains its high data protection standards.”  

Data is also high on regulators’ agendas, both within their individual and specific remits and jointly via the Digital Regulatory Cooperation Forum, where the FCA, ICO, FOS, CMA and Ofcom are working together on a joint regulatory approach to digital and online services.  It’s also, of course, at the heart of the insurance and long-term savings industry and of huge importance to consumers, who are increasingly starting to ask questions about how their data is used.

data security.jpgAt such a pivotal point for data in the UK, and as the government considers the many responses to its recent wide-ranging consultation paper: “Data: a new direction”, it seems a good moment to ask some fundamental questions about our data protection framework:  what do we need, what works, how do we get there?  Can the UK create a framework that will endure the test of time and continue to be relevant, helpful and useful for organisations and individuals? These are the kinds of questions that designers consider all the time, and it is perhaps helpful to apply the essence of good design to problem-solving and creating new opportunities in this context.  

Influential designer Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles for Good Design, produced in the late 1970s, remain highly relevant and continue to be applied by designers across a range of industries across the world today.  The principles have a close parallel with the GDPR’s key principles; both are intrinsically human-centric, aim to develop in tandem with technology and to be accessible and useful.  Applying these design principles to the design of the framework for data protection, my top five are as follows:

Good design is as little design as possible:  Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

This resonates with the aims of the DCMS consultation paper:  Data – a new direction, which seeks to provide greater clarity in the UK’s data protection legislation.  The consultation paper notes at Chapter 1 paragraph 29 that currently “there is complexity both in regulatory concepts and rules, and the huge variety of data processing activities to which they should apply.  Persistent uncertainty about how to operationalise our data protection regime risks creating barriers to data access, use and sharing that stifle innovation and competition.”

Good design is unobtrusive:  Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

What is needed to ensure the framework for data is useful and adaptable to the needs of firms of all shapes and sizes?

Good design is innovative:  The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology and can never be an end in itself.

Whilst both Government and regulators support both innovation and high standards of data protection, we don’t seem to have the right balance quite yet.  What is the ideal balance and what is needed to achieve the best innovation: protection ratio? 

Good design is long-lasting: It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society. 

How can the UK ensure the laws and regulations around data can stand the test of time?

Good design is environmentally-friendly:  Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

Data provides important insights into the environment and climate change.  At the same time, the digital world runs on electricity. How can a data-intensive world also be environmentally-friendly? We now know for example that driving a car at lower speed causes significant reduction in carbon emissions; what needs to be adapted in the data world to reduce its carbon footprint? 

We’ll be discussing this topic at the Conduct breakout session at this year’s ABI’s Annual Conference with key industry representatives and regulators. We’ll be posing the question: “A data-driven UK:  what does the new digital direction mean for insurance and long-term savings providers and their customers?” Join us to find out what to expect for data in 2022 and beyond. 

Find out more about our Annual Conference and book your place here.

Last updated 28/01/2022