In My View - 22nd March 2018

Changes to Data Protection laws are coming in May, and in my view this is not a moment too soon. It’s become an urgent issue as personal information is often shared and if treated the wrong way could potentially be misused by the unscrupulous. Facebook is in the news again this week because of targeted marketing by Cambridge Analytica using data apparently obtained via a third party online personality quiz on the social media site.

As investigations are ongoing I shouldn’t really comment, and most of what happens with and on Facebook seems to be innocent and it is a legitimate communication tool, but if there is found to be wrongdoing then when the new rules come into effect the penalties will be higher than currently. Personally I steer clear of apps and games plugged into social media as they seem a risk.

As an MP I am an official data holder registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and it’s a responsibility I take very seriously. We have all experienced in our everyday lives cold calls and promotional emails that are, at best, a nuisance and could be more serious. Telephone or internet scams seem that much more convincing when they appear to involve relatively harmless personal information such as dates of birth. Next week I am going to Department of Work and Pensions Questions in the House of Commons to raise the issue of cold calling from pension providers and what should be done to regulate that.

One of the big changes in the new legislation is the move towards an ‘opt in’ requirement and you may have received correspondence from groups asking you to sign up for things you already receive again. Aside from being a nuisance to most of us, it is always important to think of how unsolicited mail or calls may affect the more vulnerable members of our society. More generally, I would encourage everyone just to take a moment before offering any personal information whether over the ‘phone or online. The new rules have provisions that ask for whose benefit the data is used and that is a useful way of looking at it for everyone I think.

I had a positive trip to Hinkley Point last week to see this extraordinary engineering project under way. What I was particularly pleased to hear was how many Yeovil and Somerset businesses are already involved in the supply chain in some way. There are still lots of opportunities for local people and companies to get involved – more details are available at www.edfenergy.com/energy/nuclear-new-build-projects/hinkley-point-c and at the Somerset Chamber of Commerce web site for businesses.

Finally my thanks go to everyone involved in getting us through another spell of terrible weather. Hopefully now it is spring we will have seen the last of the Beast from the East. Bad conditions cause tough decisions for businesses and especially schools, but keeping safe must always be the priority.

As always, if you would like to get in touch about these issues, if you have a problem that I can help with, or if you would like to book an appointment at one of my regular advice surgeries, please do email marcus.fysh.mp@parliament.uk or call 01935314321.