Civil rights group urges EU to limit UK data moves after Brexit

UK lacks effective authority to enforce compliance with data protection law, ICCL says

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has written to the European Commission urging it to limit transfers of data from the EU to the UK after Brexit, until it can ensure that private information rights can be adequately protected.

The call comes after it emerged in August that the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) had paused, as a result of Covid-19, a two-year investigation into so-called real time bidding (RTB), how the online ad-targeting industry profiles internet users’ intimate characteristics without their knowledge.

"The UK lacks an effective independent supervisory authority that is capable of enforcing compliance with data protection law and vindicating data subjects' rights. As a consequence, the personal data of data subjects in the union do not at present have an adequate level of protection in the UK," ICCL senior fellow Johnny Ryan said in a letter to a number of EU commissioners and Brexit trade negotiator Michel Barnier.

“Therefore, we suggest to you that the inescapable conclusion is that the UK must be unable to benefit from an adequacy decision at the present time.”


The letter comes as talks aimed at finding a post-Brexit trade deal enter a crucial stage. Significant differences remain over fishing rights, fair competition rules and governance ahead of deadline set by British prime minister Boris Johnson for the end of this week for the outline for an accord to be agreed.

If no deal is agreed and ratified by the end of December, the UK and EU would end up doing business under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, which would mean tariffs on goods and heightened customs checks.

Still, it has been reported in recent days that Mr Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost have agreed to keep talking even if a wider deal is not reached by Thursday, with the end of October now seen as a real deadline.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times