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UK peers suggest one big 'Digital Authority' to watch the tech watchers, tighten up regulation

Another quango? Really? 'It's deliberately not that,' says Lord

Make tech ethical and enforce existing regs

A second major recommendation in the report was a set of 10 principles that policymakers should consider when devising new regulations or revamping old ones.

These 10 points all have to be considered – "you don't just pluck one out of the air and say this one applies," Gilbert noted – and cover transparency, privacy, human rights, accountability, ethics and the protection of vulnerable groups.

The committee also set out a series of recommendations on what it calls "ethical technology". This includes proposals for alerts for prolonged use of digital services like social media or games; a kitemark for good use of algorithms; and inclusion of ethics in computer science education.

It also called for data subjects to be able to request information on data held on them and algorithms used to make decisions about them, that terms are age-appropriate and that maximum privacy settings are applied by default.

Many of the recommendations are similar to those set out in existing law, and El Reg asked whether some of the problems could be solved by more stringent application of the rules we already have.

Gilbert acknowledged that there was a tendency in politics to pass new laws when enforcing existing ones would work – and that in some cases the regulators may need to ask for more resources to boost enforcement.

But he added that in other cases the committee was making recommendations that went beyond those in the law. For instance, that users should be be able to access not just the data held on them, but also on behavioural data generated and gained from third parties.

The government usually gives itself two months to respond to select committee reports, but doesn't have to accept any of the recommendations. But the Communications Committee is hoping that it has made its proposals in enough time for them to be considered in discussions about the imminent White Paper on online harms. ®

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