SOAS initiative cautions against lowering UK data standards in new Bill

Since its launch in 2020, Influencing the Corridors of Power (ICOP), a SOAS-led initiative helping civil society voices be heard in Westminster is now focusing on the consequences of the new Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, expected to be approved in Parliament next year. 

ICOP publishes concise, one-page, peer-reviewed briefings for UK parliamentarians that summarise the latest research or expertise and make actionable policy recommendations. Over two-thirds of the briefings were authored by SOAS University of London academics, with the remaining authored by academics affiliated with other universities and professionals associated with various civil society organisations.  

In its latest briefing, ICOP urges MPs to point out that the new Bill’s provisions could risk the free flow of data between the EU and the UK and cautions that it would lead to a significant financial impact on UK businesses as they will be required “to navigate different data protection standards.” 

The briefing also points out that the new Bill could remove fundamental protections, such as the right not to be subject to solely automated decision-making, and it could potentially make it easier for political parties to target children as young as 14 during election campaigns. Within an hour of issuing the briefing, ICOP was contacted by two peers working on this bill and connected them with the expert KC.

ICOP’s three-year report highlights the impact of this work thus far; it focuses particularly on ICOP’s objective of improving policymaking with independent expertise that challenges and informs parliamentarians. 

A Panel entitled, “Large and Liberal Atonement”: : William Wilberforce’s Unfinished Legacy in the House of Commons on 18 May 2023. Hosted by the APPG on Communities of Inquiry across the Generations and SOAS ICOP, in collaboration with Kings College London, University of Exeter,and University of Cambridge. 

Last year also marked the formation of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Communities of Inquiry across the Generations, in which ICOP serves as the secretariat, with John McDonnell MP as chair. The APPG aims to provide practical models for conducting productive debates on difficult topics between young and old. Meetings are held in Westminster and are open to both students and the general public.  

Recently, ICOP held a panel at Portcullis House on the Government’s counter-extremism programme, Prevent. The panel included experts and a SOAS doctoral researcher who shared his engagement and critiques of the programme. This event exemplifies ICOP’s capacity and commitment to engaging with different viewpoints and shaping policy making in the long term. 

The project lead, Professor Alison Scott Baumann, remarked: “SOAS ICOP’s APPG is no longer a novelty experiment to be briefly encouraged. Rather, it is a powerful force that gives SOAS a place at the table in Westminster.” 

She added, “The APPG shows that we are a serious and valuable university providing important and timely evidence-based research. Our clear and effective voice gives us moral standing in the world, and we are pioneering better politics to improve our societies locally and globally.” 

Panel on “Prevent and Civil Liberties” in Portcullis House on 15 November 2023.