The regulation everyone needs yet no one was ready for


writer icon Flavia Sandu     ISB   |   Tech     🕐 09. Aug. 2018

Since the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal that took place earlier this year, the security of the private data of internet users became a topic of interest for the general public.

Following the collection of personally identifiable information of up to 87 million Facebook users, the data has been allegedly been used to influence the opinion of voters on behalf of politicians who hired the political consulting firm.

Enter GDPR

GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation, and is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). 

It exists to give control to citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU. 

The enforcement date was 25 May 2018. Organisations in non-compliance following the deadline were faced with the possibility of heavy fines.

Flood of emails

“Do you still want to hear from us?”
, “We’ve updated our privacy policy”, “Should we stop sending you updates? If not, act now!”.

In the days leading up to the deadline, inboxes were flooded with emails from companies asking for consent to use their data. Many companies did this purely out of fear of being fined up to €20 million if their policies were found to be out of line with the GDPR.

According to the regulation, companies are required to notify regulators about data breaches within 72 hours, as well as be transparent about the collected user data and the reasoning behind its aggregation. People can also ask companies to tell them everything the company knows about them, and even to delete it all.

What experts say

The GDPR deadline had many companies distressed about how to handle their customer data. This, despite a clearly defined compliance date since 2016. 

Many of the emails sent out have been considered as needless paperwork. Some were even considered to be illegal. According to lawyers, as long as the initial privacy policy is in line with the General Data Protection Regulation requirements, further consent is not required.

How the public reacted

The general public was, and in some cases still is, unclear about GDPR.

"I don’t even know what GDPR stands for", a student in Copenhagen said.

One group particularly unsure is the elderly. A pensioner from Aalborg shared their experience. 
”I did get a lot of emails, I know they have to do with privacy but I don’t really know what I am supposed to do with them."

They went on to add, "I didn’t even know I have accounts on so many sites.”

Risk for scams

Many people were highly sceptical. There were risks that some scam artists might use GDPR as a cover to harvest passwords and lure people into clicking on unsafe links.

”It is crazy because I get this email from this site where I made an account back in 2010 and they are telling me to log in with my password to agree with some conditions again.”
  An entrepreneur from Nordjylland explained.

A hindrance

One businessman from Aarhus said, "I don’t even understand what I am supposed to do with these emails. Read all of them? I don’t have time for that.”

The overwhelming number of emails became a talking point across Europe. In some ways, the sheer number of emails had the opposite effect intended, as many people saw GDPR as a nuisance. The idea behind it is to protect them.

People still not informed
Every day people can now take advantage of the power they have when it comes to their personal data. Yet, many seem to be unaware of how their data is used, despite it being reported in several media channels.

And when people are not aware of the importance of the new data regulation and how it can help them, then the whole power balance remains unchanged.

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