The demands of the government of the United Kingdom for stricter regulation of internet firms are only growing even louder. A report that was released by a committee of the House of Lords has called for the introduction of a central “Digital Authority” that would watch over all the efforts to regulate the technology world, particularly the online giants. While the new body would largely allow individual organizations (such as ICO and Ofcom) do their work, it would coordinate those larger efforts and recommend “additional powers” if ever there are significant problems.
The report further asked for 10 guiding “principles” to dictate rules, including privacy, accountability, human rights, protections for children, and transparency. The lords also wanted to impose a general “duty of care” among internet firms, requiring them to take “reasonable” steps to prevent harm. They would also aim for clearer community content standards through a classification system that is similar to the one governing British movies.
The committee is pushing for more specific regulations beyond this. Firms should enable the strictest privacy and safety settings by default, leaving it to the users to loosen the controls. If a company handles data, it would be required to publish yearly transparency reports that will disclose how they develop, use, buy and store behavioural information. The ICO would then conduct audits to explore the risks of algorithms, while the government of the United Kingdom should consider a “public-interest test” for mergers where data plays a role.
There is no guarantee that this will lead to a Digital Authority, however, the House of Lords disputed that there might not be much choice. According to Lord Gilbert of Panteg, the current rule system is “out of date” and self-policing is “clearly failing.” Rather than reacting to the news, Lord Gilbert said that the United Kingdom should be “looking ahead” and setting policies that can apply to services in the future.
Internet giants are not expected to take this gracefully. While they have not been completely opposed to regulation, they have generally attempted to avoid it where possible.