Digital regulation: overview of government activity

Overarching approach

The government will continue to develop and refine its overall approach to governing digital technologies, building on the Digital Regulation Plan. The government will work with stakeholders to make sure its approach is fully coherent and streamlined and supports innovation within the economy.

Next steps:

  • Q4 2021: Publication of the Digital Strategy

Digital competition

The government is establishing a world-leading pro-competition regime for digital markets to tackle the unique challenges of fast-moving digital markets. Central to the regime will be a new Digital Markets Unit within the Competition and Markets Authority. Firms designated with ‘Strategic Market Status’ will be subject to a mandatory code of conduct and further pro-competitive interventions such as data-related remedies. The new regime will drive innovation, increase productivity and deliver better quality services for consumers and businesses. We are preparing to establish the new regime in statute.

Next steps:

  • Q3 2021: Consultation on the new pro-competition regime for digital markets
  • When parliamentary time allows: Digital Competition legislation introduced to Parliament

Key resources and existing publications:

Online safety

The government has published new internet laws in the draft Online Safety Bill, which will protect children and tackle criminal activity. The new framework will also ensure the major tech platforms keep their promises to their users by enforcing their terms and conditions. The government has included measures in the Bill to safeguard freedom of expression and democracy, ensuring necessary online protections do not lead to unnecessary censorship.

In the interim before the Online Safety legislation comes into force, the government has published Safety by Design guidance and a “One-Stop Shop” on child online safety. These are voluntary guidance aimed at businesses who operate online platforms, to support them in designing safer services and protecting users, especially child users.

We have also aligned our approach with the Information Commissioner’s Age Appropriate Design Code, which requires companies to apply the Code’s standards for protecting children’s personal data where they have assessed that children are ‘likely to access’ their service.

Next steps:

  • 2021: Parliamentary Scrutiny of Draft Online Safety Bill
  • 2022: Review of the Age-Appropriate Design Code
  • When parliamentary time allows: Online Safety Bill introduced to Parliament


The government has been developing and implementing the National Data Strategy to unlock the power of data for the UK. As a part of this, government is exploring how Smart Data (the secure sharing of customer data with authorised third-party providers, upon the customer’s request) can improve consumer outcomes, reduce barriers to entry, enable innovation and support fair competition, including through the establishment of a cross-sector Smart Data Working Group.

Key missions in the strategy include:

  • Unlocking the value of data across the economy (including work on Smart Data)
  • Securing a pro-growth and trusted data regime
  • Transforming government use of data
  • Ensuring the security and resilience of the infrastructure on which data relies
  • Championing the international flow of data

Next steps

  • Q2 2021: Launch of National Data Strategy Forum
  • Q3 2021: Update on plans to deliver mission 2 of the National Data Strategy (Securing a pro-growth and trusted data regime)
  • Q3 2021: Update on National Data Strategy Implementation Framework
  • Q1 2022: Next report on the work of the Smart Data working group.
  • When parliamentary time allows: primary legislation to extend the government’s powers to mandate participation in Smart Data initiatives.

Cyber security

The government is working to strengthen cyber and digital resilience in the UK, to ensure businesses, critical infrastructure and citizens remain safe and secure. Good cyber security and digital resilience enables the public to have confidence in the use of digital and connected technology.

As set out in the recent Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, the government is committed to strengthening the UK’s role as a responsible international cyber power, with major investments to strengthen its cyber security capacity building programmes – to ensure that the UK has the cyber skills and industrial base required to support its ambition and the digital economy.

The government is looking to improve the regulatory framework for cyber and digital security. We are working to make sure that connected technologies vital to the digital economy have effective security built in from the start, including work exploring Secure by Design regulation for consumer connected products and looking at options to improve the cyber resilience of essential online services.

Next steps:

  • Q3 2021: Business Resilience and Cyber Security Review.
  • Q4 2021: National Cyber Strategy published
  • Q4 2021: Consultation on Network Information Systems (NIS) & Cyber Security regulation

Digital identity

The government is looking to develop and implement a legal framework to remove regulatory barriers preventing the use of secure digital identities, establish safeguards for citizens, and increase confidence in this nascent market. A pre-legislative consultation this year – following the publication of an alpha document in February 2021 – will support the next stage of policy development.

Next steps:

  • 2021: Digital Identity & Attributes consultation
  • 2021: Publication of iterated UK Digital Identity Trust Framework

Online advertising

The government is committed to reviewing the online advertising ecosystem as part of DCMS’ Online Advertising Programme to ensure it is subject to appropriate regulation and that harms in advertising are minimised. Specific issues that may form part of the scope of the review include the use of personal and online behavioural data in the targeting of online ads, and ensuring robust levels of transparency and accountability in the regulation of online advertising with respect to the content and placement of online advertising. The review will include looking at the role of platforms in the online advertising ecosystem.

Next steps:

  • Q4 2021: Online Advertising Programme Consultation
  • 2022: Government response to Online Advertising Consultation
  • When parliamentary time allows: High Fat Salt and Sugar advertising proposals included in the Health and Care Bill and introduced to Parliament

Online gambling

The government is exploring the case for greater protections for online gamblers, and the rules around gambling advertising. This is largely being explored through a Review of the 2005 Gambling Act. The aim of this review is to ensure that the legislation on gambling is fit for the digital age with the right balance between freedoms and protection.

Next steps:

  • Q4 2021: aim to publish a White Paper on the Gambling Review

Press, video and radio

The government has commissioned reviews of broadcast and radio regimes to ensure they are fit for the digital age. It is also assessing how UK citizens consume media, and how to strengthen media literacy, particularly around the consumption of digital media.

The government will publish a White Paper on the future of broadcasting this Autumn. The White Paper will set out proposals to ensure the UK’s framework is fit for the modern digital age, including measures to ensure public service broadcasting is given adequate prominence across distribution platforms. The White Paper will also follow a review of the regulation of video-on-demand services.

The government is committed to enhancing the sustainability of journalism, and the pro-competition regime for digital markets represents one aspect of the government’s support for news publishers. The mandatory code of conduct at the heart of the regime will support the sustainability of the news publishing industry, helping to rebalance the relationship between publishers and the online platforms on which they increasingly rely.

Next steps:

  • Q3 2021: Digital Radio and Audio Review Report published
  • Q3 2021: Media Literacy Strategy published
  • Q4 2021: Broadcasting White Paper published
  • Q1 2022: government response to Digital Radio and Audio Review.
  • For next steps regarding the pro-competition regime, see Digital Competition.


The government is committed to driving the strategic growth of Artificial Intelligence in the UK. The AI Sector Deal identified the use of AI and data as a critical element of driving growth and innovation across UK economic sectors, and the Government has committed to publishing a National AI Strategy, focusing on growth of the economy through widespread use of AI technologies; the ethical, safe and trustworthy development of responsible AI; and resilience in the face of change through an emphasis on skills, talent and R&D.

Next steps:

  • Q3 2021: publication of AI strategy

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