GDPR is almost here: Is your business prepared?

GDPR is almost here: Is your business prepared?

The biggest shake-up of data protection regulations which is GDPR is nearly upon us. The new rules will come into force on the 25th May 2018.

If you haven’t heard of GDPR, or if you have but haven’t found the time to investigate how it might impact you and your business, then this is the guide for you.

But first, a very important disclaimer: Every business is different and that makes it very hard to give precise advice on GDPR as your circumstance may differ from the “average business”.

For that reason alone, the first piece of advice I’ll give is to seek out expert help on preparing fro GDPR. We’ll look at ways to do this later.

Now let’s take a look at a few questions that get asked frequently about GDPR.

What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is the culmination of a project to set one standard for data protection rules across the European Union.

Will Brexit affect GDPR?

In simple no, GDPR comes into force before Brexit is due to happen, and the British government has already indicated that it plans to follow GDPR rules regardless of Brexit.

Will my business be affected by GDPR?

Although there is no on fit answer here, it probably will. Almost every business, charity and non-profit collects data of some kind, whether it’s name and address, card details or something more complex.

How does GDPR affect the Data Protection Act (1998)?

The government will enforce GDPR by introducing a new data protection bill. When this bill becomes law, it will then replace the Data Protection Act, which will then be repealed.

From a more practical point of view, the good news is that the two acts will not be much different from each other. This means that if you are compliant with the Data Protection Act 1998, you won’t have to make too many changes.

That being said, don’t use compliance with the 1998 act as an excuse for complacency, as there are still some significant changes you may need to implement.

What changes are in GDPR?

The GDPR article features 99 articles, so as you can imagine there’s a lot in there that needs to be digested.

With that in mind, here are the key changes that will come in to force.

People will have greater access to data.

Currently, if someone wants to access the data that you hold about them, they have to pay a £10 charge. That charge will be abolished under GDPR.

You’ll also have to provide any data you hold on them within one (1) month.

Essentially, people will have more control over their data, and you need to make sure you are in a position to provide them with their data upon request.

New bigger fines.

This is the GDPR change that has caused the most concern.

And although it is true that the maximum fine for failing to comply with data protection laws will go up to 20 million Euros for the worst offences (from £500,000), the Information Commissioners Office has indicated that it’s unlikely to use these fines routinely, and that the ICO will look to work with businesses to improve their compliance where possible rather than punish them.

You’ll be more accountable for the data you handle

Larger companies (those with 250 or more employees) will need to provide documentation detailing why they collect and process people’s data, what information they hold, how long they’ll keep hold of it and the security measures in place to protect that data.

In addition, companies that process people’s data on a large scale, or process a significant amount of sensitive data (such as medical records) will have to employ a data protection officer.

Clearly, the vast majority of smaller businesses won’t be affected by these changes.

However, what will affect businesses of all sizes is the need to get consent in order to use someone’s data for certain purposes (this includes marketing). This may sound familiar, but GDPR will require you to get positive consent from an individual in order to send them marketing material. (There are however some exceptions to this rule, read this article over at 123-reg for more information on how GDPR will impact marketing.)

Are there any initial steps I can take to help with GDPR?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer will be yes, but although initial steps will help, on their own they’re no where near good enough to ensure compliance with GDPR, so make sure you’re fully aware of the other steps you may need to take.

With that in mind here are those initial steps:

  1. Always ensure you encrypt personal data and store it on password protected devices. Losing a USB stick with unencrypted data would count as a data leak.
  2. Understand what you need to do if you have a data leak. Under the new rules, you need to contact the ICO within 72 hours of a leak, and inform those whose data has been leaked. This ICO guide goes into more detail on what to do after a data leak.
  3. Develop a data policy, even if you don’t have to. Doing so will help you understand what data you collect, why you use it and if there is anything you can do to reduce data collection to make GDPR compliance easier.
  4. Create a privacy policy & share it with your customers & website visitors. Make sure this outlines exactly what you’re collecting their data for and how you will be using it.
  5. Carry out a data audit so you know exactly what data you currently have, and then keep your data records up to date. After all, you’ll need to be able to provide people with their data if they request it, and you can only do that if you’re keeping track of your data collection process.
  6. Seek consent if require. That way, you’ll have evidence that people have opted in to your marketing and that you’re using their data lawfully. Remember people need to actively opt in for you to use their data lawfully, and you must clearly tell them what they are agreeing to.


What should I do next?

I would recommend viewing the ICO’s “Preparing for GDPR 12 steps to take now” guide.

There is also an ICO helpline which you can contact.

Get in touch