EU approves new data protection standards

Following four years of negotiations, the European Commission has finally approved the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The GDPR has been designed to give citizens back control over their data in the digital age, ensuring rules surrounding the right to be forgotten are clarified.

The new standards also place some hard-hitting financial penalties on businesses who fail to protect data. For example firms will have to make the relevant data protection bodies aware of any breaches within 72 hours of them being discovered, and fines can be levied of up to four per cent of global revenue for the previous year, or €20 million, whichever is higher.

In a research study released earlier this year, a worryingly high 87 per cent of organisations surveyed admitted to being worried that their current information security policies and procedures will leave them exposed under GDPR.


The regulation explained

Citizens will have more information on how their data is processed, presented in a clear and understandable way. They will have the right to know as soon as possible if their data has been hacked or disclosed. The “right to be forgotten” will be clarified and strengthened. Already in the EU, individuals have the right, under certain conditions, to ask that search engines remove links leading to personal information about them. This right however must be well balanced against the right to freedom of expression. It will also be easier for people to transfer their personal data between service providers such as social networks – thanks to a new right to “data portability”.

Businesses will also benefit from the new rules. The reform will boost legal certainty for businesses, with a single set of rules across the EU. Thanks to the one-stop-shop, companies will only have to deal with one single supervisory authority – rather than the 28. This, together with the simplifications brought by a single Regulation, will save an estimated €2.3 billion every year.

With the new rules, non-EU companies will have to apply, when offering their services to customers in the EU, the same rules as EU companies; thus creating a level playing field. The new rules are also future-proof: technologically neutral and fit for innovation and big data analytics. The new rules encourage privacy-friendly techniques such as pseudonimysation, anonymisation, encryption and data protection by design and by default.


Info exchange

The new Police and Criminal Justice Authorities Directive will allow for smoother exchange of information between Member States’ police and judicial authorities. Criminal law enforcement authorities will no longer have to apply different sets of data protection rules according to the origin of the personal data. This will save time and money and increase the efficiency in the fight against crime. Having more harmonised laws in all EU Member States will make it easier for our police forces to work together.


Becoming reality

The EU data protection standards will become the reality in all EU Member States in 2018. Member States have two years to apply the Data Protection Regulation and to transpose and implement the “Police” Directive. This timeframe gives Member States and companies sufficient time to adapt to the new rules.

The Commission says it will work closely with Member States to ensure the new rules are correctly implemented at national level. The Commission will also engage in open dialogue with stakeholders, notably businesses, to ensure there is full understanding and timely compliance with the new rules.

A handy Q&A on the new regulation has been published by the EU.

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