Ed Vaizey says Privacy Shield and Snooper’s Charter are “legitimate issues” for business

Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.

The Investigatory Powers Bill, roundly criticised by the world’s biggest tech companies over plans to add backdoors to encryption, snuck its way back onto the agenda in the Queen’s Speech yesterday.

Privacy Shield, meanwhile, the EU’s data deal to replace the defunct Safe Harbor agreement, has now been all but approved by European and US powers, paving the way for a new, but still uncertain future for data transfers being made across the Atlantic.

Given that both of these pieces of legislation will dramatically change business processes in the UK, not least around data sovereignty and data protection, we wanted to understand what businesses need to do next.

Speaking to NS Tech today, the Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey agreed that both of these pieces of legislation should be up for discussion.

“They are perfectly legitimate issues for the tech community to want to discuss with government and the European Union,” he said.

On the new plans for Privacy Shield, Vaizey said that “it’s important from a UK government perspective to keep the free flow of data. We’re pushing the agenda for the free flow of data for companies.”

But he was not clear about exactly what he thought of the new policy or, indeed, whether he supports it.

He is, however, very keen on the Digital Single Market. “This is a huge platform to grow a digital business.” But that’s only if the UK votes to remain in the EU, of course.

On the Investigatory Powers Bill, Vaizey said: “This isn’t a binary debate – either you’re pro-security or pro-encryption. It is perfectly possible to have a debate as tech people about this.”

But he didn’t offer a time or place for that to happen.

Vaizey was speaking at Salesforce’s huge World Tour event in London today.

He was also asked whether the 10Mbps universal broadband commitment coming in the new Digital Economy Bill is really an exciting prospect for those who still don’t have satisfactory broadband.

He said: “I don’t think it’s a damp squib. But we want to keep track of it – we don’t want to leave people on 10Mbps if 100 becomes the norm. But we think this is ambitious for hard to reach areas.”

Vaizey also admitted that he’d initially been “sceptical of what Tech City could do” for technology companies. “I have become a convert,” he said.

NS Tech will be working away in the background to understand just how big government legislation is affecting technology businesses and businesses that use technology.

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