Don’t panic, don’t panic!’ – the GDPR arrives

25 May 2018 was the deadline for the General Data Protection Regulations coming into force.  Lots and lots of work has been done on this across the business community and I wonder what negative impact this will have on the Government’s wish for increased productivity.  Can you imagine the hours and hours of time that have been spent across the country! Many businesses have felt up against the deadline of 25 May, fearing the huge fines that have been threatened, so have made detailed compliance a priority.  The message was put out in such a way that the approach has been one of fear and lack of proportionality.  An English approach to European law has been the death of common sense in many areas.

However, it has been clear all along that the real aim of the new law is to restrain those dealing with large amounts of data, using that data as their own by selling it or whatever, and to put in place such large potential penalties that such abuse no longer becomes worth the risk.

This view was completely confirmed on the morning of 25 May 2018 by the person in charge, the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.  In respect of small businesses her clear message was that they ‘should not panic.’  Even if there is a data breach, help will be made available to a small business, rather than punishment, provided they are on the compliance journey of trying to deal with data properly and put safeguards in place.

The objective as far as small businesses are concerned is very basic, to just try and get people to take reasonable care of data.  The Information Commissioner’s purpose is to go after the big players in data, who either deliberately or negligently mis-use that data.  These are the Cambridge Analytica and Facebooks of this world.

Small businesses are not expected to be perfect.   Basic information can be found on the IC website (www.ico.org.uk) and we can help you get the revenant (probably low) level of compliance in place.  The IC Office say they will be sympathetic even if there is a problem.  They do not have 10,000’s of inspectors to snoop about for flaws and the Commissioner does not expect that they will be out to look at small businesses.  Action in respect of a small business will only follow a complaint from an individual, and even then if the business has been proactive and tried to do the right thing, it seems that there will be a lot of sympathy and support rather than punishment.

No need to panic then.  Yes, sensible levels of action to take, but don’t scare the horses or lie awake.  Unless you are Mark Zuckerberg of course…..