This week marks one year since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) arrived on 25 May with much speculation and uncertainty. Julia Seary, partner at Roythornes Solicitors, looks at what we’ve learnt and what major scandals, if any, have come to light.
This time last year, GDPR was the hot topic of conversation as its introduction promised to impact nearly every organisation across Europe.
The regulation was introduced to strengthen personal data privacy laws in light of technological advancements and put all European organisations on an equal footing in terms of compliance requirements. In a heavily data-driven world, GDPR was an attempt to update the law in response to the volume, variety and speed of personal data production and its global circulation.
Now that the dust has settled, we can begin looking at how the regulation is really working in practice.
Overall, it appears that significant enforcement activity is minimal, but that’s not to say investigations aren’t taking place behind the scenes. There have been more than 50,000 data breach notifications across Europe since GDPR came into force and here in the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have received more than 8,000 notifications of data breaches since the end of May 2018.
The largest GDPR fine issued to date has been the €50 million against Google by the French data privacy regulator for lack of transparency, inadequate information, and lack of valid consent in relation to its use of personal data for the purposes of personalising advertisements.
Remember that a maximum fine of up to €20 million or 4% of annual worldwide turnover – whichever figure is greater – can be imposed on businesses which do not conform with the updated regulation.
The use of data subject rights is becoming another business issue; GDPR grants individuals more extensive rights regarding their personal data which has generated a culture of individuals making repeated and extensive subject access requests (i.e. requesting emails going back many years), often simply to cause annoyance, waste time and incur costs for the data controller.
Immediately following 25 May 2018, there was a surge in erasure requests as individuals sought to clean up their online privacy and security. This seems to have slowed down in recent months – perhaps due to the realisation that the right to request erasure is subject to business requirements, rather than an absolute right to have all information deleted.
Finally, the last emerging data protection trend and a potentially concerning development is the increase in class action-style litigation and so-called “data protection ambulance chasers”. Some claimant law firms are attempting to build business off the back of data breaches – even if the breach gives rise to little risk of damage.
In order to avoid business impact and interruption our advice continues to be for organisations to review and update data privacy documents, implement GDPR training, and assess all data flow and transfers. We also recommend reviewing contracts with third parties and putting a process in place to deal with DSARs, other requests and potential breach scenarios.
Julia Seary is a Partner at Roythornes Solicitors
Roythornes Solicitors is a top 200 national law firm with strategically located offices across the Midlands and East Anglia. The firm adopts a one team ethos across all offices, with trusted advice being given by its recognised experts on a national spread. It prides itself on building longstanding relationships with clients with a high emphasis on personal connectivity. The firm’s clients include major blue-chip companies, family businesses and private individuals, based nationally and internationally.
Each client benefits from the company’s partner-led, practical approach. As well as a powerful breadth and depth of legal expertise, the team brings commercial know-how and invaluable lateral thinking to each case, drawing on a diverse range of skills and contacts.
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