25 May 2018 | By Josh Hardie Insight

Take back CTRL: GDPR is good for consumers, and business too

Today GDPR comes into force - and the new regime will be central to the UK's abilities to lead the way in game-changing technologies

I’ve been meaning to clean up my mailbox for a long time. Now, suddenly, it seems to be doing it itself. As a consumer, this feels like a welcome bit of help. But it’s more than that – these emails are a critical part of the UKs future economic success.

The great inbox purge marks a watershed moment in how businesses deal with our data – the long-awaited arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Our personal data, everything from emails addresses to photos, will get a higher standard of protection under these new rules. It is the moment when business set a clear commitment: this is not our data, it’s yours, and we commit to help making it work for you.

This is the start of a vital journey, not the end. While the countdown clock for businesses is nearly at zero, GDPR is about so much more than box ticking. How firms act with personal data goes right to the very core of trust in business. CBI research shows, in no uncertain terms, that the way a company deals with our data is the top concern for potential customers and business partners.

Why has data become such a big deal? Because technologies that we use today are now built on digital information, not nuts and bolts. From getting the best flight deals, to the latest news on social media – the products and services we love are underpinned by our data. And it’s not just tech companies; data fundamentally supports the everyday work of every businesses. 

But public trust in how businesses use data has been rocked by high-profile scandals. Ipsos Mori research highlights that 7 in 10 consumers do not believe companies have their best interests at heart when using their personal data. That’s a big concern which needs to be addressed.

On the one hand, we should be optimistic about the opportunities that the use of data unlocks. On the other, people need complete confidence and awareness about how their data is being used. GDPR provides the boundaries for that balancing game.

The rate of technological change is not going to slow down and GDPR will evolve to keep pace.

The Information Commissioner’s Office, the regulator in charge of data protection has a treasure trove of resources to keep firms of all sizes well-informed.

Looking at the next five years, there is a huge amount of justified excitement around the potential of technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. When it comes to tackling some of the major challenges our society faces, from improving productivity to combating climate change, business’ use of data driven technologies will help find the answers.

If the UK is going to lead the way in these game-changing technologies, companies must have the freedom and flexibility to innovate. They will only be given that licence if they uphold the highest standards of data protection. People need to have confidence in the way technology gets smarter and solves new challenges.

I can’t promise that after 25 May, the day GDPR comes into action, that our inboxes will be any less busy. But it does mark a turning point in the conversation and underlines that business has a critical role to play, ensuring your data is used fairly and transparently.


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