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UK and US agree deeper data-sharing partnership

The partnership will see the two nations form a comprehensive strategy to share data that aligns with both domestic data sharing and protection frameworks

The UK and US have announced a new agreement that will see the two long-term allies develop a deeper cross-border data partnership.

In a joint statement from the Summit for Democracy, the UK secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) Nadine Dorries and the United States commerce secretary Gina M. Raimondo said developing a more comprehensive data-sharing agreement will lead to "a more peaceful and prosperous future".

The challenge, the two nations acknowledged, would be to create a data-sharing partnership that both allowed the free-flowing of data across the Atlantic while adhering to the different data protection laws and frameworks adopted by the two countries.

The purpose of creating the data framework is to enhance public safety, national security, and law enforcement investigations, the joint statement read.

"The challenges facing cross-border data flows are increasingly global and require solutions that work across multiple jurisdictions," said Dorries and Raimondo. "We recognise the negative trends that risk closing off international data flows.

"In response, we seek to shape a global data ecosystem in a manner that promotes and advances interoperability between different data protection frameworks, facilitating cross-border data flows while maintaining high standards of data protection and trust.

"We are committed to open and inclusive engagement with international partners, industry, civil society, and consumer and privacy rights groups."

Talks of a cross-border data-sharing agreement between the UK and US have been taking place for years and there were fears that once the UK left the European Union (EU), and was no longer compelled to adhere to GDPR domestically, that such an agreement between the UK and US would undermine data protection laws on home soil.

In 2019, when leaked documents confirmed the US was lobbying the UK for a data-sharing agreement, US officials cited the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation-Cross-Border Privacy Rules (APEC-CBPR) agreement as a model the two nations could follow.

The EU has had a watchful eye over the UK and US' data dealings for some time. Later in 2019, the two countries struck up a preliminary agreement with a narrower focus: to make it easier for sensitive data to be accessed across the borders for the purpose of crime fighting

The move was originally designed to make it easier for UK and US law enforcement to access the data they needed for investigations without too much friction, but the EU then warned both countries that the agreement may not be sufficiently compatible with EU data protection standards.

European Data Protection Board (EDPB) director Andrea Jelinek wrote to the UK at the time saying the agreement may harm the UK's chances of securing a post-Brexit data adequacy agreement with the EU, an agreement it later achieved this year.

Privacy technology prize challenge 

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Also announced by the two nations at the Summit for Democracy was a brand-new prize competition to encourage the development of, and mature privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs).

The prize challenge will form part of a series of international grand challenges to promote democracy-affirming technologies to accelerate work and overcome gaps in the technology used to protect the privacy of citizens.

It's the thought the work that goes into the challenge will build on the innovation already being made across academia, the private sector, and government, harnessing data to help protect privacy and intellectual property. 

"Privacy-enhancing technologies can help our democracies to harness the power of data and AI to support our citizens and businesses - in a way that reinforces our shared values," said Dorries.

"The UK is striving to unlock the power of data across the economy. This prize challenge will build on the UK’s comprehensive National Data Strategy and help to raise the profile of these technologies on both sides of the Atlantic, laying the foundations for future collaboration."

Winners of the prize will be announced at next year's Summit.

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