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As TechUK, a body which represents over 1,000 UK tech firms urges the Government not to scrap General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws following our departure from the European Union, we believe that stepping away from EU legislation has the potential to do our thriving tech industry more harm than good.

Described as ‘the biggest change to data protection law for a generation’ by the UK’s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, GDPR, is European legislation that is set to replace UK Data Protection from 25th May 2018.

The new laws will apply to anyone who collects or processes the personal data of any EU citizen and last year the UK government released a 13-page Brexit position paper which stated a clear intention to keep the UK “fully involved” in shaping EU data policy, beginning with “unprecedented” alignment at the point of exit.

However there is concern that prominent Brexiteers in Government may wish to ditch the law as they go in search of new trade agreements outside the EU. In an open letter to International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, TechUK’s Chief Executive Julian David says this approach will do more to hinder future deals on trade.

“We would caution against the misunderstanding that adherence to the EU data protection regime is incompatible with securing high quality trade agreements that promise open trade and investment, ensure free cross-border data flows and respect high levels of data protection, writes Mr David.

Instead Mr David argues that shunning GDPR legislation will instead undermine the UK’s position as a leading tech hub.

“Diverging from EU data protection rules in domestic law post-Brexit would undermine this opportunity,” said Mr David.

The case for and against GDPR…

For GDPR

Law needs to move with the times – The 2017 report ‘10 Key Marketing Trends for 2017 and Ideas for Exceeding Customer Expectations’ from IBM states that every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data and that approximately 90 percent of the data in the world today was created in the last two years alone. With this in mind it stands to reason that as technology advances the law has to keep up. The majority of existing legislation around data protection was created in the 90s and doesn’t take into account the major technical advances in social media and high-speed Internet.

Greater efficiency – The current playing field is a confusing one, with lots of different laws created in different countries, which often contradict each other and which all claim to apply at the same time. GDPR cuts through that red tape by giving organisations one set of data protection rules to follow.

People power – GDPR will definitely strengthen an individual’s rights by making it clear what rights a person has to the personal data they have uploaded themselves.

Against GDPR

A burden on business – At a time when the future of Europe’s finances is still highly uncertain the cost of being GDPR compliant places a large burden on the small and medium sized businesses that provide the backbone of the European economy. Whilst larger businesses can absorb the costs, will SMEs be able to foot the bill?

A false sense of security – By taking the responsibility for the personal information an individual shares online away from the individual and into legislation, there is the possibility of a false sense of security being created about safety and security of data online.

Privacy or censorship – The “right to forget” is a cornerstone of the new GDPR legislation, but how much should the “right to be forgotten” be balanced with everybody else’s “right to remember”.

The stakes are certainly high for the channel, with the digital sector still very much on the rise, adding an estimated £58 billion to UK GDP alone by 2020 if growth remains on track. In turn, the demand for reliable and fast connectivity services is only going to increase.

With so many UK companies already so heavily invested in making their processes compliant with GDPR we believe the UK economy is better served by retaining the EU legislation, which prominent countries outside the EU such as the US have also made great efforts to align themselves to.

Have your say!

Does GDPR represent a help or a hindrance to your business? Share your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.

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