EU Data Protection Act – Ready, Get Set, Go


A balancing act-EU Data Protection regulations

70% of EU citizens are worried about the misuse of their personal data. There are several changes proposed to the regulatory landscape. The old rules were framed circa 1995 when the internet was albeit new and in its infancy.

The new data protection act will give EU citizens the right to access, change or delete their data. Just over a quarter of social network users (26%) and even fewer online shoppers (18%) feel in complete control of their personal data. Most interestingly, it will include ‘the right to be forgotten’. If the controller has made the data public, it must take all reasonable steps, including technical measures to inform third parties that the individual requests that the data be deleted. Imagine the effort required by social media sites that have shared your information to other ‘apps’ and businesses for a fee. The right to be forgotten has several caveats which may prove to be an Achilles heel for those invoking this right.

  • 74% of Europeans see disclosing personal information as an increasing part of modern life.
  • 43% of Internet users say they have been asked for more personal information than necessary.
  • Only one-third of Europeans are aware of the existence of a national public authority responsible for data protection (33%).
  • 90% of Europeans want the same data protection rights across the EU.

Interestingly, EU rules will apply to companies not established in the EU, if they offer goods or services in the EU (or monitor the online behaviour of citizens). This means that foreign banks (from outside the EU) will be subject to these laws, data for these institutions currently reside in data centres outside the EU.

Privacy to the data is to be built in by design and default, movement of data outside the EU only to countries with adequate protection.  What defines ‘adequate protection’?  Again, this will impact the BPO industries and web-hosting providers whose data centres reside outside the EU.

An EU citizen will have to consent explicitly for data processing rather than assumed. What mechanisms are to be provided for this? And how will a citizen be sure that the request has been complied with to the letter?

Companies will have to notify individuals of serious breaches within 24 hours, this was not forthcoming in a breach of security of the world’s largest professional network as we have seen recently.

Data Protection Officers to be mandatory, and will need to be an expert , should be involved in a timely manner, must receive proper support to perform tasks.

On a more serious note, firms face being fined up to 2% of their global annual turnover if they breach proposed EU data laws. This is severe, steep and dissuasive. Companies should ensure that compliance in necessary and should take steps to address the changes.

Proposed timeline

  • 2 years to complete the legislative process,
  • and further 2 years as with any proposed regulation,
  • not before 2015 (est.)

Further reading
European Commission (Protection of Personal Data – Justice)
EU data protection law proposals include large fines
How to prepare for proposed EU data protection regulation