I’m not the sort of person who is naturally overflowing with optimism. I’m cautious with my optimism. That way I’m rarely disappointed. However I do get increasingly fed up with our society’s tendency to see only the negative side of things (I must be getting old). Something which has recently come to a head as I work more on implementing the new European General Data Protection Regulation.
This regulation comes into force in May 2018. Just over a year off. It isn’t being dropped on us at short notice. Actually we are given two years notice.
Let’s put GDPR into context. It replaces a piece of legislation that is 20 years old. Legislation that was put in place to protect our privacy in the technological world that existed at the time. That world has changed beyond recognition. In 1998 there was 147million users of the internet worldwide, actually when the laws were written between 1994 and 1996, there was more like 16million. Today there are in excess of 25 times that amount, over 3billion (information source Internet World Stats). The amount of data being transmitted every minute is colossal and the current laws governing the management of that data are outdated. GDPR has been developed to protect this data: Data that belongs to you and me.
In 1998 Biometrics were a thing of the future, science fiction. Genetics data was something only considered by healthcare and high level research. This form of data, our most private, has no protection under current data laws. So we have to move on.
In recent weeks I have presented to a number of business leaders. I have received a mixed response, very little of it positive. Some complete overreaction stating that it will prevent business. GDPR isn’t meant to stop businesses doing what they do, just ensure they do it in a way that protects the data subject and makes the laws universal across Europe. That has got to be positive.
One area of negativity is around consent. And particularly having to re-consent. This is a great opportunity to not only clear out obsolete data from systems but also validate that the people you are communicating with are reading your communications and you have the correct details. Why would anyone want to put effort into communicating with people who don’t want to hear your message or not longer exist? Over time that is more wasted effort than an exercise of validating the data you have.
I was recently at a presentation by Lord Digby Jones. It was enlightening. He talked at length about how great British industry is, but how now more than ever it needs to embrace and be positive about the challenges we face. Let’s start looking at this new legislation as an opportunity not an obstruction. We have to embrace it and it will be much easier embraced positively.
It is at times like this I think of the Charles Darwin quote: ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’ This is as true for business as it is the animal world.
In future blogs I will consider some of the impacts of GDPR and ways that I thing businesses could benefit from it.