What Brexit will mean for Data Protection

On Thursday 23 June, UK voters will decide whether to leave or remain in the European Union. With a number of opinion polls continuing to report a very tight race, businesses, government and regulatory authorities are preparing for both remain and exit victories. An exit vote will impact on laws and regulations for UK registered businesses and companies that operate within the EU, in a number of ways, but what about data protection?

According to PHS Data Solutions, every UK business will still need to adhere to clear and effective data laws, even if the UK votes to leave the EU this summer. This analysis is based on a statement issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office in April 2016. The ICO says: “The UK has a history of providing legal protection to consumers around their personal data. Our data protection laws precede EU legislation by more than a decade, and go beyond the current requirements set out by the EU, for instance with the power given to the ICO to issue fines. Having clear laws with safeguards in place is more important than ever, given the growing digital economy, and is also central to the sharing of data that international trade relies on.”

Whatever the voting outcome it is possible that the UK may remain bound by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is set to become enforceable across the EU in 2018. The legislation, which is a more stringent version of the earlier 1998 Data Protection Act, sets out a strict set of criteria with any breaches potentially resulting in fines based on 2% or 5% of the company’s annual worldwide turnover.

First proposed in January 2012 by the European Commission the regulations were formally approved by the European Parliament on December 15 2015. The GDPR supersedes national laws such as the UK DPA, and is aimed at unifying data protection and managing the flow of personal data across all 28 EU member states.

PHS Data Solutions says the key features include the right of individuals to be forgotten and that companies must make clear how data is to be processed and give consumers the option of selecting preferences. Organisations including companies processing more than 5,000 names each year must appoint a Data Privacy Officer (DPO). Entities will also be required to report serious contraventions of the law to the regulators and to anyone affected.

It is likely that even if there is a Brexit, every UK business offering services to EU member states, regardless of whether or not they hold any EU data, will still need to adopt more stringent rules than the UK Data Protection Act if they still wish to trade within the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) like Norway, which has already adopted the GDPR legislation despite not being an EU member.

Predicting the exact outcomes in the event of a Brexit is almost impossible, but the implications for data protection compliance are that there will still be obligations for businesses to protect their customers’ data, just like there is now, with the additional complication of meeting certain EU data protection standards in order to trade within EFTA.

PHS Data Solutions, Managing Director, Karen James says: “As a business it is our job to support customers in the best possible way and try and help them navigate through a myriad of increasingly complex EU legislation. Whatever the outcome of the Referendum, and following the statement from the ICO, the UK will need to continue to strike a balance between privacy laws that are robust yet also smart in encouraging growth in areas such as technology and big data.”

To learn more about the impending changes to the EU General Data Protection Regulation, take a look at the handy graphics prepared by PHS Data Solutions:

www.phsdatasolutions.co.uk/resource-centre/guides/eugdprinfographic

PHS Data Solutions, a division of the PHS Group, is a leading player in the scanning, storage, retrieval and shredding industry for a variety of sectors, including Government, the NHS, pensions, insurance, legal and retail.

Find out more about PHS Data Solutions by viewing their company profile, here.



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