Sunday 26 November 2017

In praise of ... Elizabeth Stafford

Many of even the most dedicated members of the UK’s data protection fraternity may not have heard of Elizabeth Stafford.

And that’s a shame.


Because she, along with a small band of colleagues in the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport are doing great things.


Because, as Head if EU Data Flows, not only is she working on ensuring UK businesses can rely on unencumbered data flows between the UK and the EU post Brexit, she’s also one of the key DDCMS officials working hard behind the scenes to fashion a new set of Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations that are truly fit for purpose.

Whether she will succeed is another matter – after all, with regard to the PECR deliberations, the UK delegation is just one of the talking heads around an extremely large negotiating table. 28 very different EU Member States need to reach an agreement as to what the real problems are, and therefore what proper solutions, should be developed.    

What I am certain of is that she understands the issues that occupy the minds of the British stakeholders in these debates.

And, in her patient, pragmatic and insightful manner, she has explained the key issues to the DDCMS decision makers, and has helped develop a policy positions which, as far as I can judge, reflect the requirements of most sensible data controllers with in the UK.

Whether the DDCMS will be able to “sell” pragmatic British PECR solutions to a majority of the other 28 Member Sates around the table is an entirely different matter.

But it might not matter.

By the time the European institutions will have reached agreement on the precise form of the new PECR regulations and the precise date that the new rules will come into force, Brexit could have happened and the UK will have left the EU.

And then, UK policymakers will be faced with a choice.

Should they follow all the new PECR rules, or should they reserve the right to adopt a different approach?

While I’ve no idea what the final decisions will be (nor, who will actually be the DDCMS minister who will have to recommend said decisions to the Cabinet), I’ve no doubt that the UK will have developed a series of pragmatic options that will have been shaped by the great policy work that Elizabeth has recently been heading. 

So, Elizabeth, you almost certainly won’t get a gong for your great work - nor, any other form of official recognition, for that matter - but please be assured that there is a small band of privacy folk that do appreciate what you’re working to achieve.