The Queen’s Speech

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Yesterday, in the Queen’s Speech at the Opening of Parliament, the UK Government outlined plans for the Data Protection Bill.  The Bill is intended to bring data protection law into the digital age, to give people more control over their own data, and to implement the GDPR.  See page 46 of this Queen’s Speech briefing for more detail.

I couldn’t find a copyright-cleared image of the Queen in her blue and gold ‘EU-flag-hat’, but here’s Elizabeth I looking gloriously regal in red:

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Portrait of Elizabeth I from Coram Rege Roll.  Thanks UK National Archives, no restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

This new legislation is badly needed.  The Data Protection Act feels increasingly anachronistic.  It made sense in 1998, when personal data was often still kept in paper filing systems, the web was still new to most people, and our all-encompassing virtual world was a long way in the future.

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Slightly cute filing cabinet.  Emoji One, via Wikimedia Commons, licence CC BY SA 4.0

Now by living our lives through our smartphones and social media sites, many of us are sharing incredible quantities of personal data, sometimes intentionally, sometimes because that is how such sites operate.  If legislation doesn’t keep in step with social and technological change, we end up with a mess like UK copyright law, which is not fit for purpose in the digital age.  Data protection is too important to get wrong: breaches affect people’s finances, health, and well-being in sometimes devastating ways.

However, it’s also important that the work of archives is not inadvertently obstructed by such legislation.   Archivists and records managers, professional bodies, and archive users will need to get informed about and involved with this legislation to make sure the interests of citizens are properly managed: keeping their information safe now AND making sure that history is not lost for the future … of which much more as the detail of the Bill emerges.

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The Houses of Parliament, Photo by Berit, Flickr via Wikimedia Commons, licence CC BY 2.0