The reforms are the largest shakeup in data protection laws in decades, with the new rules aimed at overhauling the way that businesses collect, handle and store personal data.
However, for many small firms, getting to grips with GDPR has been incredibly challenging, with most of these businesses failing to get past the initial stages of preparation with just weeks to go.
FSB research, released in February 2018, showed that over a third (33%) of small businesses had not started preparing for the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) while a further third (35%) were only in the early stages of preparations. Only eight per cent of small businesses had completed their preparations.
In the UK, it is the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that will enforce the new laws, but with many businesses, both small and large thought to have missed the 25 May deadline, FSB has called for a light touch manner with the focus being on education and support, not punishment, especially in the first few months.
In the UK parliament, the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, specifically stated that the ICO isn’t a “bonkers regulator” and wouldn’t be looking to target small businesses, which is welcome.
This sort of willingness to work with small firms is what is needed as they try to grapple with the burden of complying with GDPR, and regulators across the EU should look to replicate this approach.
However, that doesn’t downplay the fact that most small firms will struggle in the early days of GDPR. For this, they will require support from the ICO, and all eyes will be on them as to whether they have the ability and resources to effectively deal with these enquiries.
Small businesses are also consumers and understand the importance of data protection – they need to feel that their data is being protected like everyone else. The aims of the European Commission should be commended for trying to achieve an online environment where everyone’s data is secure and where the dream of a Digital Single Market is realised.
Unfortunately, these benefits won’t be fully realised if smaller firms do not positively embrace the new data protection landscape. This can only happen if they are given the time to understand the changes and implement them correctly.
As experts in business, FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including advice, financial expertise, support and a powerful voice in Government. Its aim is to help smaller businesses achieve their ambitions. More information is available at www.fsb.org.uk. You can follow us on twitter @fsb_policy.