Govt Pretends EU's GDPR Is A UK Ploy To Tame US Tech Firms

It was an uncomfortable interview yesterday on the Andrew Marr show. The BBC's flagship politics chat show had a guest host -- journalist Emma Barnett -- who did her best to do a Jeremy Paxman on every guest by interrupting and treating them as if they were in an interrogation room rather than a tv studio.

Before the Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock, was sat on the sofa, Barry Gardiner, the Shadow Secretary for International Trade, had already been worked over by the host for past remarks about Brexit in which he rubbished his own party's stance on leaving the EU. 

Then came on Matt Hancock with a warning for tech giants that the Government is finally going to deliver on its repeated threats to bring in legislation to make them more responsible for what is published on their platforms. "The days of asking nicely are over," he said, and host Emma Barnett smelt blood. 

There were repeated questions about the details. What would be the focus of the new law, what fining powers, how would it be policed? Then the killer: how long does terrorist material need to stay up before Facebook or Google gets a fine? 

Then the screws were turned as Hancock was reminded that he invited 14 companies for talks about the future of regulation of the net and only four turned up. Plus, Zuckerberg won't come to Britain to face MPs' questions. 

Although it showed how powerless he currently is, it actually played to Hancock's favour and underscored the need now for the Government to press ahead on legislation. There was, however, virtually no details because the Government will consult to gather opinions on how to move forward. 

Perhaps the massive irony that may have been missed on many was that the current legislation he referred to as showing that the Government is intent on tackling, in particular, poor handling of data and underage children signing up to platforms, is none other than the GDPR. OK -- so it's being called the Data Protection Bill but is essentially a way of keeping the GDPR on the statute books post Brexit. It is the GDPR with a Union Jack attached.

It has well-documented powers to levy massive fines of those who don't handle data legally, including not seeking parental consent for processing data for children under 13 years of age (this age can vary between EU member countries).

Other than that, we're pretty much where we were a year or two ago with the Government saying they're going to fine and legislate and essentially bring the social media giants to heel. We still have no detail on when that might be, nor any detail or even direction of travel on what the legislation might look like.

The one thing we do have is a line that has been swallowed, without question, that the Government has legislated to bring in massive fines on data protection and children signing up to platforms without parental permission. 

GDPR becomes law on Friday, and like any other Regulation, the UK has no option other than to accept it fully as going straight into law. For the Government to repurpose it as a British tactic to tackle the social giants is disingenuous, to say the least. 

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