The EU have made the long awaited announcement that the Commission, Parliament and Council have agreed on the final wording of text for the General Data Protection Regulation, which will harmonise data protection rights across the EU. This announcement marks the finalisation of the EU Data Protection Reform put forward by the European Commission in January 2012.

The final text of the Regulation will be formally adopted by the European Parliament and Council at the start of 2016 and the new rules will become applicable after a two year transition phase, in which period the Commission will be working closely with the UK Information Commissioner’s Office to inform citizens of their rights and companies of their obligations.  

The reform will consist of two instruments:

  • the General Data Protection Regulation, which will enable individuals to better control their personal data and assist businesses in making the most of the Digital Single Market; and
  • the Data Protection Directive for the police and criminal justice sector which will ensure that victims, witnesses, and suspects of crimes are protected in the context of a criminal investigation or law enforcement action. An increase in cross-border co-operation of police or prosecutors will assist to combat crime and terrorism more effectively.

Individuals will benefit from:

  • easier access to their own data;
  • a right to data portability;
  • a clarified 'right to be forgotten'; and
  • the right to know when their data has been hacked.

Businesses will benefit from:

  • one continent, one law;
  • one-stop-shop - a single supervisory authority;
  • European rules on European soil;
  • a tailored risk based approach; and
  • 'rules fit for innovation', e.g. encouraging privacy by design.

The arrival of the Regulation is likely to have a significant impact on the approach businesses take towards handling and processing data as the relevant data protection authority will now have the power to levy a fine of 4% of annual worldwide turnover for any breach of the Regulation. In some instances, this could amount to billions of pounds.

If you would like to discuss the impact of the Regulation on your business, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Joanna Boag-Thomson.

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