When Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the UK would hold a general election on 4 July, he also—incidentally—killed the government’s long-running attempt to reform the UK’s data protection and privacy framework, the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (DPDIB). 

Regardless who wins the election, the DPDIB is unlikely to return. But the UK’s two major parties are planning other reforms of the digital legal framework, and the government’s policy on AI regulation could continue under either the Conservatives or Labour.  

Here’s a look at how the UK’s two main parties’ manifestos compare on data protection, AI, and digital legislation. 


With proposals to support police on facial recognition initiatives and clamping down on kids’ mobile phone use, some would say that if the incumbent Conservative Party remains in power after 4 July, data protection may not be a priority. But there’s a clear focus on AI, which the party compares to “the steam engine and electricity” in its potential to “accelerate human progress”.

1. Increasing AI investment 

The Conservative Party’s manifesto does not directly mention the government’s “pro-innovation” approach to AI regulation, which provides regulators with a set of cross-sectoral principles to guide their interpretation of existing laws. However, there is also no indication that this policy will be scrapped.

Regulation aside, the Conservatives would increase public funding of AI research and development by 10%, and continue strategic investments in digital infrastructure and manufacturing. The government also suggests increasing the use of AI within the health service as a means to “free up doctors’ and nurses’ time.” 

2. Supporting facial recognition in policing

Among other measures intended to “back the police,” the Conservatives promise “new tools” will be provided to law enforcement authorities, including facial recognition. 

Given that the police are already using facial recognition, it’s not clear how this manifesto promise would play out. Police use of live facial recognition was successfully challenged at court in 2020, but that narrow ruling does not appear to have deterred police forces from deploying the technology.  

As such, the Conservatives might consider passing new legislation to clarify precisely how and when law enforcement authorities may use facial recognition. 

3. Regulating kids’ mobile phone use

The Conservatives promise to “protect children by requiring schools to ban the use of mobile phones,” including by putting existing government guidance into primary law and providing funding where necessary. 

Citing concerns over depression among young people, the manifesto also promises a consultation on enhancing parents’ ability to control children’s access to social media. 


A ‘single unique identifier’, targeted AI regulation, and further online safety rules. 

Along with building new data centres, improving digital literacy, and supporting AI-driven research, Labour’s manifesto makes three substantive policy proposals relevant to data protection and AI. 

1. Enhanced online safety rules

Labour says it would “build on the Online Safety Act,” legislation passed by the current Conservative government. The manifesto does not specify how, except by stating that it would do so “as quickly as possible” and that it would “explore further measures to keep everyone safe online.” 

Labour also says it would “give coroners more powers to access information held by technology companies after a child’s death.” 

2. A ‘single unique identifier’

To prevent “families falling through the cracks of public services,” Labour intends to “improve data sharing across public services, with a single unique identifier to better support children and families.” 

Assigning a single unique identifier would, presumably, make it easier to track people’s engagement with health and welfare services.  

But if Labour’s “unique single identifier” plans resemble ex-Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair’s policy on identity cards, the proposals might face opposition from some privacy advocates. 

3. Targeted AI regulation

Labour’s manifesto does not propose any EU-style AI legislation. As such, the party might continue with the “principles-based” approach implemented by the current government. 

However, Labour intends to introduce “binding regulation on the handful of companies developing the most powerful AI models and ban “the creation of sexually explicit deepfakes.” 

Be ready for change 

In the face of political turbulence and unexpected legal changes, companies with a mature data protection and privacy programme can adapt quickly. Talk to HewardMills data protection and AI experts about staying compliant regardless who wins the election. 

If you would like to discuss this topic or anything else data protection and privacy-related, please contact us at dpo@hewardmills.com.