GDPR: Fear of change?

13th Feb, 2018

Are you ready for it? I am hearing this question everywhere I turn my head and its clearly raising doubt and insecurity among associations.

A new European regulatory framework for data protection – The GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation.

On 25 May 2018 the GDPR, the new European regulation for data protection, comes into effect. This will have obvious consequences for European marketeers and other communicators working with data of European consumers. The new regulation tightens the rules compared to the current Personal Data Protection rules but also imposes several new obligations.

In the end… what is all the fuss about? I’ll have to start by explaining the difference between ‘fear’ and ‘concern’ to help you understand that you don’t really need to be concerned! Fear is a feeling you experience when something still has to occur. However, when you’re concerned that something is generally already there. And that’s definitely not so since the GDPR will not come into force before 25 May 2018. That’s when Europe will show it’s really serious about protecting citizens against the constant collection of data in view of influencing behaviour, irrespective of whether intentions are right or wrong. I would say that this is definitely a good thing. However, there is some concern because no one really knows how to handle this changing context nor what the consequences of the changes will be.

What if I don’t interpret the new rules properly? What will that entail for me? You may remember that most of us went through the same turmoil when VAT was introduced in Europe. When do I have to charge VAT and when not? At that time many convention organisers were concerned about being fined or even convicted. All that belongs to the past now because in the end we were all able to manage the transition and most of the concern was probably not justified.

Reason: the authors of the new rules were probably not properly prepared for the introduction of the changes… and I am convinced that the same will happen when the GDPR comes into force. Our regulators may have devised an ingenious system to better protect European consumers and their personal data but the civil servants who have to put the new rules into place and verify their proper implementation will still have to acquire some field experience before getting to grips with the new regulatory situation. If you are in the line of fire of the GDPR I would not panic.  It will not be unlike what happened when VAT was introduced. Just quietly prepare yourself. Make sure you’re up to date and that your files are in order. No one will be waiting around the corner to convict you. All of us just have to learn more about it and get acquainted with it. Just as in the early days of VAT many big consultancies and legal cabinets are clamoring that you should be in touch with them because they already have all the answers. But if I were you I would wait a moment longer until the dust settles.

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