Europe prepares to introduce the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on May 25, but what is it and how will it impact consumers?

Article pulished on Irish Examiner

What is GDPR?

Coming into force on May 25, the General Data Protection Regulation has been designed to give everyday consumers a greater say on how, and if, their personal data is used.

The EU-wide law will involve new powers that require firms to get clear consent from users before taking their data and detail the exact purpose it will be used for.

What is “personal data”?

This is any information that could be used to identify an individual online, including names, bank details, posts on Facebook or other social networking sites, images and medical information.

Under the new regulations, users will have the right to know what exact details a company holds about them – as well as requesting the information is deleted if desired.

Am I likely to be affected?

Yes. Whether you own a business, run a charity, or have signed up to newsletters via social media or online shopping websites, the GDPR is likely to impact us all.

The Act will give individuals easier access to the information that organisations hold about them – free of charge.

Currently, there’s a €11.45 fee for a Subject Access Request (SAR), which businesses and public bodies can charge in order to release any personal information.

However, the GDPR means this will be scrapped and requests for personal information can be made free-of-charge and must be released within one month.

What happens if I ignore it?

Everyday users have to do very little to comply with GDPR – it’s more targeted at big online businesses.

Many people will have already noticed emails from organisations asking whether they still want to be on the receiving end of their mailing list and other information.

If you don’t reply stating yes, many companies will assume you don’t and remove you from their database.

What are the punishments?

Businesses that fail to comply with the GDPR could face big penalties, including a fine equivalent to 2% of annual global turnover.

Fines can even reach up to €20m for bigger companies who make significant errors.

If a business has a security breach, then they have to notify the Information Commissioner’s Office within 72 hours.