Are you prepared for GDPR?

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Are you prepared for GDPR?

By now, you'll have certainly heard about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect in May 2018.

This is not some obscure piece of law that can be given the minimum level of attention. Instead, it's the most significant change in data protection rules for many years, which places lots of new responsibilities on businesses and gives extra power to customers.

In short, the GDPR has been designed to establish a single data protection regime across Europe, as well as give people easier access to the data companies hold on them. Firms must also obtain the consent of people they collect information about before using it and avoid storing more personal data than they legitimately need.

And crucially, companies must be able to demonstrate compliance with the rules when requested and prove they have robust data management processes in place.

Breaching the GDPR can be punishable with a fine of up to £17 million or four per cent of global turnover, whichever is higher. The scale of the punishment is a measure of just how significant GDPR is - and a reminder that no business can afford to ignore this upcoming change in the law.

Carry out information audits

Before adapting your data handling policies from top to bottom, it pays to get a comprehensive look at what you're already doing. Audit how you currently manage data and what steps you take to safeguard sensitive information. 

Do you know where your data is being stored, who has access to it and how unnecessary data is being disposed of? 

Chances are you are already doing many things right, but it's crucial that you identify where you may be falling short of what GDPR demands. 

What mistakes are employees making?

Ensuring staff are fully up to speed with their obligations under GDPR will be crucial if firms are to avoid falling foul of the new rules.

After all, they are the ones who will routinely handle sensitive data, so they must be aware both of best practice and the consequences that any mistakes may bring.

A recent survey by office product specialist Fellowes was worrying as it showed that many employees are making lots of avoidable errors when handling data.

Data errors4

But this lax culture could - perhaps justifiably - be said to be partly down to those at the very top of a business.

Indeed, 46.8 per cent of office workers in the UK said they don't know whether their firm is taking action to comply with GDPR. In addition, seven per cent believe their company doesn't even know about the new regulations.

It's crucial that company bosses communicate the details of GDPR with the employees it directly affects and work to build a culture of compliance and secure data handling.

Otherwise, they could be leaving themselves wide open to devastating fines and potentially irreversible reputational damage.

Things to do to prepare for GDPR

Things to do to prepare for GDPR

Don't be scared of GDPR

Regulatory changes on such a scale can on the surface appear to be a bit intimidating. Smaller businesses in particular may worry about the sheer amount of time and money that needs to go into overhauling processes from top to bottom.

But the truth is that many firms will be doing many of the right things already, with parts of the GDPR representing more of a tightening of existing procedures, rather than the creation of a whole slew of new processes.

And it's also true that the GDPR has the potential to bring about new business opportunities - a fact that marketers especially seem to be very aware of.

According to a survey by Ensighten, two-thirds of UK marketers are confident rather than scared about the impact GDPR will have.

Nearly seven in ten believe it will improve how they harness big data, while two-thirds view the new rules as a strategic opportunity. In addition, three-quarters are confident that GDPR will lead to their approach to customer interaction and engagement being updated.

The upcoming changes in the rules might be forcing brands to look again at how they interact with their target market, but that doesn't have to be something to be apprehensive about. 

Indeed, a new era of transparency and effective data usage could open many new doors to organisations and improve the experience they offer to customers.