Level playing field needed to stop Big Tech data harvesting – report

big tech

The Bank for International Settlements (BIS), a global financial institution, has called for companies and individuals to be given a greater level of control over how their data is collected by Big Tech firms.

The BIS paper said that despite the introduction of data protection and transparency laws across various international territories, most individuals remain unaware of the extent or consequences of their data being collected.

BIS determined that governments should “level the playing field between data subjects and data controllers” through the adoption of new data governance systems.

The paper called for a more effective system to clearly and transparently obtain consent to collect data, as well as make it clearer what the data is being used for.

“When data are shared between data providers and data users, the data governance system should specify which data are requested for sharing, how long they will be retained by data users, and who will process them,” the paper said.

The current legal mechanism for data protection in the UK is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While it was enacted by the European Union, post-Brexit it was brought under British domestic law as the UK GDPR.

It threatens fines of up to 4% of global annual turnover. BIS found it was fairly comprehensive in comparison to other data protection laws, but is still considered flawed by the paper.

However, the government is reportedly set to unveil reforms to the UK’s data privacy laws in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday, which could see Britain deviate from EU rules.

And in the US, where the majority of big tech firms are based, there is not a general consumer data privacy law at the federal level.

Last year, the UK government established the Digital Markets Unit (DMU), a regulatory body with the aim of keeping Big Tech in check.

The DMU, which currently operates as a non-statutory body within the CMA, has no legislation granting it the authority to regulate Big Tech.

The government has, however, expressed the intention of upgrading the powers of the DMU.

“The rules governing competition in the UK’s digital markets are in desperate need of an upgrade,” said Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at Which?

“So it’s encouraging that the government intends to introduce new rules to tackle the entrenched power of tech giants.  For the sake of UK consumers and businesses, it is essential that the Digital Markets Unit is properly empowered.”

Despite the government’s pledge to expand the authority of the DMU, sources close to the situation have told The Financial Times that legislation doing just that would not be included in the upcoming Queen’s Speech on 10 May.