Web Matters responds to the UK Digital Charter outline

Rolls recording UK Acts of Parliament held in the Parliamentary Archives, Palace of Westminster, London. Source: -JvL- on Flickr

TL:DR; – the UK government’s outline of its Digital Charter is encouraging, but short on detail.  We expect, and need, much much more.

The UK government has published a long-awaited document outlining its Digital Charter. As expected it contains little in the way of meat, opting instead for easily-digestible soundbites such as:

the internet should be free, open and accessible

and:

personal data should be respected and used appropriately

… which Web Matters wholeheartedly agrees with (the latter point is a fundamental principle of GDPR). The clear intention of this document – to formulate regulation which is for everyone’s benefit – is heartening to hear.

The devil, however, is in the detail. The government’s continued attacks on the tech industry make us question its commitment to making the UK “the best place to start and grow a digital business”. And the recent rhetoric railing against encryption casts doubt on the government’s pledge to make the UK “the safest place to be online”.

The elephant in the room is, of course, Brexit. What will happen to the UK tech sector after ties are cut with the EU has not been mentioned in this document. Clarity is urgently needed, not least with the many questions about what happens when UK regulation is applied to a worldwide Internet.

We applaud the commitment to “look to the tech sector, businesses and civil society” to help shape the Digital Charter, and look forward to the day when politicians and technology experts can have constructive dialogue about the issues facing our industry. But, at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, we’re not holding our breath.

If there’s one thing the government has shown over the last few years is that its actions don’t always align with its words.

Get involved

Web Matters is a fledgling industry body for people who work on the web. We’re striving towards consultative status with UK government bodies, and we want to ensure that the tech/web industry’s voice is heard on critical issues such as encryption, GDPR and, of course, Brexit.

Membership will soon be open to all (watch this space!), but if you’d like an early chance to join then sign up to our Slack team and ask for details in the #membership channel. You can also follow us on Twitter to stay up to date with what we’re doing.

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