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Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum publishes Workplan for 2024/25

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By Jade Kowalski & Stuart Hunt


Published 10 May 2024


The Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum ("DRCF") has published its 2024/25 Workplan, setting out its plans for the coming year. The DRCF is a voluntary forum made up of four UK regulators: the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the Office of Communications (Ofcom), the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The group engages on overlapping policy areas to deliver a coherent and coordinated approach to digital regulation for both consumers and business. The DRCF works with a wide range of stakeholders including industry, trade associations and technology companies. Regular engagement is undertaken with Government stakeholders including those in the devolved nations and a wider group of regulators outside of the members of the DRCF.

The DRCF is currently chaired by Nikhil Rathi (Chief Executive of the FCA) who delivered a speech a week after publication of the Workplan which emphasised the DRCF's priority task of mitigating the risks of BigTech, while leading a coordinated effort to utilise the opportunities presented.

What is the workplan?

The Workplan sets out the 2024/25 priorities for the DRCF and establishes a three-year vision reflecting the shared priorities of the members. The group will measure the impact of its work by gathering insights and data, such as business publications, academic literature and surveying internal regulator teams to understand the value of the DRCF's work.

Three-year vision

The three-year vision can be summarised as follows:

  • Protecting and empowering people online by raising public awareness and encouraging businesses to take action to prevent harms.
  • Unlocking digital innovation and economic growth through enabling technology to drive productivity.
  • Supporting regulator effectiveness by coordinating on adoption and operation of their respective rules.
  • Leading domestic and international discussions on enablers and parameters of digital industries.
  • Anticipating future developments to help understand the risk and opportunities presented by emerging technologies.

This vision will be supported by the Workplan objectives for the coming year.

Workplan objectives

There are 12 Workplan projects identified in the 2024/25 report. The project activities will be carried out by the group of regulators as a whole unless identified below (with the appropriate regulators in brackets):

  • DRCF AI and digital hub: This 12-month pilot will provide regulatory clarity to AI and digital innovators across multiple regulatory remits, by making it easier to deliver digital products to market. The DRCF will publish outcomes of queries as case studies on the website and seek feedback from users to evaluate the performance and service offering of the pilot.
  • Artificial intelligence: The group will work together on a range of activities to improve regulatory coherence and business compliance in line with the Government's AI framework. These activities are expected to include joint research into consumer experience of generative AI and the third-party auditing market, hosting events to explore the interaction of the Government's AI principles with regulation and raise awareness of research into responsible AI, and sharing knowledge with users and the Government's central AI function.
  • Online Safety and Data Protection (Ofcom/ICO): The regulators will continue to ensure coherence between data protection and online safety. The development of existing working practices within the legal framework, along with cooperation and collaboration on issues such as Ofcom's codes of practice and guidance under the Online Safety Act and ICO guidance on user profiling and behaviour identification safety will be carried out.
  • Digital Assets (FCA/ICO): To allow continued collaboration to deepen the understanding of digital assets, the regulators will engage with the crypto asset industry and other stakeholders, and also look to align ICO guidance and FCA work in this area.
  • Illegal Online Financial Promotions (FCA/Ofcom): The regulators will continue to engage and explore the interaction and coherence between Ofcom's Online Safety Act codes of practice and Financial Promotions legislation. The interventions of other regulators such as the ICO may also be considered to support data sharing.
  • Promoting Competition and Data Protection (ICO/CMA): The regulators will discuss the possibility of any potential or perceived tension due to overlapping CMA and ICO regimes that the interests of both business and consumers are served. This will involve joint statements on AI foundation models to guide development and updating the 2021 joint statement on competition and data protection. There will be continued cooperation on supervisory and investigation activities and the continued evaluation of Google's compliance to CMA commitments on the Privacy Sandbox.
  • Sharing the latest developments on cross-cutting digital issues: The group will share knowledge on areas of shared interest such as online architecture, online advertising and privacy enhancing technologies (PETS). New areas of interest will also be discussed.
  • Horizon Scanning and Emerging Technology: The group will supplement the existing horizon scanning functions of the individual regulators to plan for new innovations, and the subsequent regulatory risks and opportunities. This will involve conducting and publishing research on the future of digital identity and deepfakes, as well as revisiting previous horizon scanning topics.
  • Supervisory Technologies: The group will explore opportunities to collaborate in the development of technologies to assist regulatory functions. This will involved exchanging information on use of machine learning and AI, and exploring how Large Language Models can be used to addressed complex regulatory issues.
  • Skills and Capabilities: In order to build the regulators' digital capabilities, the group will promote joint learning and development opportunities, embed graduate placement and staff secondment pathways between regulator and upskill for AI governance.