Data Protection and the EU Referendum: Should we stay or should we go?

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How will data protection laws be affected by the EU referendum?

The Data Protection Act of 1998 is now nearly 20 years old, a legislation that was intended to bring UK laws into line with the EU’s Data Protection Directive of 1995. Since then however, smart phones have become increasingly popular,  we have witnessed the rapid growth of the internet, online retail and the development of companies solely based around the use of personal data. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is due to come into force as of May 25th 2018, intended to bring data protection laws for the EU into the 21st century. This could have a huge impact on any company that deals with the personal data of citizens within the EU. On Thursday 23rdJune 2016, however, the UK will vote to either remain in or leave the European Union in the EU referendum.

What  will happen?

If the UK decides to stay in the EU, then the proposed changes to the UK’s data protection framework will proceed and we will see an adoption of the EU GDPR. As a general summary, the key changes that the GDPR will implement are:

·         Return control of personal data to users.

·         Simplify the regulatory environment.

·         Appoint a data protection officer where data processing is carried out

The GDPR would apply to all data controllers (and also to data processors) operating in the UK as well as those based outside of EU with a focus on UK-based data subjects.

If, however, the Referendum vote swings in the other direction with the UK voting to leave the EU, then the situation becomes unclear. The range of options that are available in relation to the future of UK data privacy laws becomes far more uncertain. It is possible that a Brexit vote may allow the UK to consider fresh opportunities to review law-making and legislation within data protection. Some argue that the proposed EU GDPR option is perhaps’ too heavy’. A Brexit result therefore could provide an opportunity to introduce similar guidelines to the GDPR with a lighter regime. This would however inevitable mean shunning off a complete adoption of the GDPR.

Regardless of whether the UK decides to leave or remain firms all around the globe with a foot or interest in Europe will need to know what the European Union has in store for data management. Furthermore, with increasing stories within British media surrounding data leaks and confidentiality breaches, The UK’s  “approach to cyber security, especially in relation to the reporting of response to incidents, continues to suffer from sub-optimal co-ordination,” says Hugo Rosemont, crime and security policy adviser for the British Retail Consortium.

So what do you think? Should the UK stay in or leave the EU? Don’t forget to vote on the 23rd of June!

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The author: XPO
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