On Tuesday 18 October, PICTFOR hosted their event on the future of digital regulation, asking; “How must regulation evolve to match the tech sector?”
The roundtable featured insights from the Chief Executive of Ofcom, Dame Melanie Dawes and the UK Information Commissioner, John Edwards. The event was chaired by PICTFOR’s Treasurer, Lord McNally.
Please see below for minutes of the session.
- Lord McNally provided opening remarks and introductions, praising the regulators on their ability to stay ahead of the curve, before introducing the event’s first speaker, the Chief Executive of Ofcom, Dame Melanie Dawes.
- Dame Melanie Dawes began by discussing the concept of digital regulation for Ofcom and how this changed in the wake of the development of digital services. She set out Ofcom’s objectives for the coming years, which include ensuring that people have internet they can rely on, media that can be trusted and sustained, and safer lives online. Ofcom is also looking to support wireless services in the broader economy, with a programme of work on digital markets and research into cloud services. Dawes went on to describe Ofcom’s work on net neutrality and rules governing the flow of internet traffic given the huge increase of bandwidth demanded by new services. She said the focus was on consumer protection, not economic regulation, but that Ofcom were still looking to promote competition and innovation. She then stressed the importance of working with other regulators, citing this as a key reason for founding the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF). On online safety, she said that her focus was on systems and processes, and not about content. She added that Ofcom needs the help of parliamentarians to explain to the public that their role in this space is not a complaints line as they are for television. Instead, they aim to have a structured dialogue based on exchanging information, giving companies a chance to fix things before Ofcom reaches for fines, but also being unafraid to step in quickly when needed.
- The UK Information Commissioner, John Edwards began by explaining the role of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), citing the eight pieces of data legislation that they are responsible for administrating as well as the hundreds of billions of daily data exchanges that they regulate. He set out ‘ICO 25’, their strategic plan that decides how they allocate resources to ensure they have maximum impact for maximum people, as well as making the law as easy as possible to implement. Like Dame Melanie Dawes, he stressed the importance of the DRCF, which provides a forum for early and efficient collaboration and which he described as world leading. He explained the importance of being clear to stakeholders about where the regulatory regimes overlap, as DRCF members function to service the consumer. He also described how the members worked closely to address regulatory challenges in critical areas and provide clarity on their approach to collaboration. With multiple important pieces of legislation upcoming, both domestically and international, the ICO want to ensure that consumers have both agency and control in the markets, and in particular ensuring that those who are vulnerable are protected. He ended by calling on the industry for success stories that the ICO could learn from.
- The Chair then heard contributions from the roundtable, with Dame Melanie Dawes and John Edwards answering questions from Sir Jeremy Wright MP, Baroness Hamwee, Lord Clement-Jones CBE, Sir Stephen Timms MP, techUK, Carnegie Trust, Google, Omnicom, TikTok, BCS and Imperial College London.
- The discussion touched on many aspects of the tech space, from the Online Safety Bill to the UK’s data standards post-Brexit, and discussed the most pressing problems facing regulators and legislators. The Chair then thanked the speakers and those in attendance and brought the event to a close.