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Why GDPR Matters More Today Than Three Years Ago

It’s been just three years since a small four-letter acronym caused a huge amount of attention. For a while, GDPR was on the lips of every speaker at every industry event and dominated conversations in board meetings up and down the country. 

Everyone was scrambling to understand what the new data processing legislation meant for them, and what they needed to do before the deadline on 25 May 2018 to avoid its serious penalties.

How the rules would be policed, and which businesses would be on the sharp end of a hefty fine added to this speculation for data-driven businesses.

Lessons learned

With hindsight, we now know that even some of the most well-known and digital-savvy brands would have to pay the price for not keeping their customer’s data safe. 

Of course, implementing GDPR across the business may feel like an annoyance, or even unnecessary, especially to compliance teams. However, it was the push that many businesses needed to rethink their best practices.

The road bumps of Brexit and the pandemic have stretched these best practices even more, yet another indication that more change may be on the horizon when it comes to data processing. 

However, these obstacles have also shown us what our GDPR future may look like. As well as allowing businesses to forge better trust, loyalty, engagement by demonstrating to consumers that data privacy is at the heart of what it does, no matter the turbulent surroundings.

First Brexit… 

Brexit, the UK’s exit from the European Union, has been one of the biggest political changes in the lifetime of GDPR. Unlike many of the uncertainties of what the long-awaited details of the Brexit deal would entail, businesses at least knew the GDPR would survive Brexit in the UK. 

The provisions were incorporated directly into UK law in 2018 in the updated Data Protection Act, with some technical amendments that allow it to work in a UK-only context.

So, despite the rumours around GDPR and Brexit – there really is no excuse for a business to bow out of staying compliant with the legislation.… then the pandemic.

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More recently, the coronavirus pandemic became the next big event within GDPR’s lifetime. And, if anything, it only further highlighted just how important it was to bring in this legislation in 2018 – as security threats towards data processing businesses have now increased due to remote working. In the UK alone, there was a 31% increase in cyberattack cases at the height of the pandemic, according to police records.

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The moral compass of organizations has come under scrutiny throughout this time, and consumers are marking companies upon their activities. GDPR has really helped businesses keep their data accurate and thorough throughout this time, which ensures they can meet the expectations of their customers as well as keep their reputation, in a time when many brands have had theirs come crashing down.

As Warren Buffet famously said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

What’s next for data processing?

Now GDPR is firmly part of the UK law, some businesses may be keen to know if any further changes to data processing regulations are on the horizon, especially as there have been so many attacks on databases during the pandemic.

The short answer is yes.

 Since 2017 there have been proposals for a new ePrivacy regulation to be put in place. These could be implemented sometime this year and will affect, amongst other things, marketing legislation throughout the EU. The UK however will not be subject to it. 

The rapid adoption of AI similarly raises questions for GDPR. For example, how can a machine be governed by GDPR law when it is always learning and implementing new efficiencies to help it process information quicker? Again, the EU is planning on introducing safeguards around this topic that will sit alongside the GDPR.

Just because the implementation period of GDPR has passed, we still need to prioritize compliance. As we return to some normality in the world, the legislation will continue to be a compliance force that will ensure data remains safe, and we’re all doing best by our customers.

GDPR is just as important now, as it ever was.

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