EU shows world the way in data protection

The much maligned EU today approved a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that standardises and harmonises consumer rights across Europe.  The GDPR includes among its provisions the “right to be forgotten”, the right to know if your data has been hacked, the right to transfer your data, and increased fines for companies found guilty of breaching the regulation.

But although it will be the consumer protection that attracts headlines, businesses should welcome these rules as well.  First out of the traps to do so was the GSMA – the world trade body for mobile operators.  The GSMA described the introduction of stronger consumer rights and harmonised rules across Europe as “fundamental to building trust and driving the uptake of new digital services by citizens across Europe.”

The GSMA also immediately turned its attention to the EU’s upcoming review of its e-Privacy Directive – saying the right balance needs to be struck between “protecting confidentiality of communications and fostering a market where innovation and investment will flourish.”

The fact is that telecoms and mobile service providers have long operated in fear of the regulator.  They cast envious eyes at the businesses that companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon have created out of harvesting data and think to themselves – “the regulators would never allow us to do that.”

So clarity (within Europe to start with) of what you can do with data, how you to have store it, and the rights of the consumers who theoretically ‘own it’ will of course be welcomed by the telco operator community.  Maybe now, they can plot a clear (allowable) route to new business initiatives and sales that take advantage of the mountain of data that is generated by their networks.

The move by the EU is groundbreaking.  Talking to the Guardian, Phil Lee a data protection partner at law-firm FieldFisher said as much adding: “The simple fact is that the global standard for data protection will now be dictated by European rules.”

If correctly drafted, these rules and the e-Privacy Directive, will indeed lead the world in protecting consumers while enabling new business.  Quite an achievement.



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