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Concern for small firms over new data protection duties
by Susie Hughes at 11:38 08/08/17 (News on Business)
The Government’s new Data Protection Bill risks being the death knell for many small businesses according to the Forum of Private Business.
The Forum of Private Business is calling on the Government to form a working group to consider the impact on small businesses of the proposed GDPR legislation, as a lack of clarity on what small business can and cannot do in terms of data use will lead to inertia through fear of breaking the new rules.

There are specific concerns that the burden of compliance will once again fall most heavily on the micro-businesses.

The Forum cites four main concerns:

  • That only larger businesses, with in house compliance guidance or the budget to employ outside consultants, have paid any attention to what the implications of the legislation are. Inadequate guidance has been given by the Information Commissioner’s Office to help small businesses, and there appear to be areas of the Bill that are open to interpretation which do not give the clarity that small businesses need.
  • Whilst the focus of the legislation is towards protecting personal data, there appear to be material unintended consequences that could impact small businesses. The main focus so far, has been on how big business manages personal data and inadequate attention has been given to how these changes may affect small businesses.
  • The way many small businesses operate in today’s world relies on electronic communication with existing and prospective customers. Many businesses rely on email lists for their marketing, and the prospect of obtaining overt consent, and maintaining consent records, is one that many businesses will simply not be able to cope with.
  • Small and micro businesses already face a disproportionate cost of complying with regulations when compared to big business. The potential for many of them now to have to employ or train staff to deal with compliance on data management or buy online data management tools will be a burden that some will not be able to accommodate, and the threat of the draconian fines that attach to breaches of GDPR will be sufficient to lead some businesses simply to close down.

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Chief Executive of the Forum, Ian Cass, said: “Many people will welcome tighter controls on who owns their personal data an how it is used, and as such the intent of the GDPR legislation is fine, but it appears that no one in power has thought about the small and micro businesses that make up 98 per cent of the UK’s 5.2 million businesses, account for more than half of the country’s employment and are the economic engine of the high street.

"There is the potential for this legislation to impact the way many of these businesses operate and market themselves, and even force them to close down. Digital Minister Matt Hancock’s comments in his press statement reassuring that “businesses will be protected” gives no comfort whatsoever whilst there is so much uncertainty about what will be allowed, and what actions will be heavily fined."

The Forum is calling on the Government to establish a dedicated working group, to ensure that all MPs are fully briefed on the potential impact on their constituency businesses before they are required to vote.

Background
A new Data Protection Bill intends to give people to have more control over their personal data and be better protected in the digital age.

It includes the 'right to be forgotten' and a new right to require social media platforms to delete information on children and adults when asked.

Under the plans individuals will have more control over their data by having the right to be forgotten and ask for their personal data to be erased. This will also mean that people can ask social media channels to delete information they posted in their childhood. The reliance on default opt-out or pre-selected ‘tick boxes’, which are largely ignored, to give consent for organisations to collect personal data will also become a thing of the past.

The Government announcement says that businesses will be supported to ensure they are able to manage and secure data properly. The data protection regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), will also be given more power to defend consumer interests and issue higher fines, of up to £17 million or four per cent of global turnover, in cases of the most serious data breaches.

Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital said: "Our measures are designed to support businesses in their use of data, and give consumers the confidence that their data is protected and those who misuse it will be held to account.

"The new Data Protection Bill will give us one of the most robust, yet dynamic, set of data laws in the world. The Bill will give people more control over their data, require more consent for its use, and prepare Britain for Brexit. We have some of the best data science in the world and this new law will help it to thrive."

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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2017

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