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Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has led some data professionals to think that they will no longer be affected by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) due to come into force in 2018; however, John Cassidy, VP EMEA, Ground Labs disagrees.

“Although it’s very early days, there are some misconceptions around the impact of Brexit on the many thousands of organizations responsible for storing and managing sensitive personal data,” says Mr Cassidy.

Any business that stores, transmits or processes personal information has a duty of care to ensure this sensitive information is secure and safe. Prior to the Brexit vote, the GDPR was gaining momentum in the UK as a government driven regulation that businesses must comply with or face substantial penalties in the event of personal information being lost or stolen.

“We have discussed the issue with a number of UK businesses that believe if Britain leaves the EU then the requirements of GDPR will somehow be overridden. This is entirely unfounded as the risks of ignoring the new global data regulations will remain,” Mr Cassidy states.

One critical area is in terms of customer retention. UK companies with customers within the EU will need to ensure that they are GDPR compliant if they want to continue trading with those customers.

“One common misconception is that the GDPR applies to companies within Europe, but it’s actually designed to protect European consumers. This means that if you are handling even one European customer’s personal information, you are tasked to handle his information in line with the GDPR, or face the consequences.”

Furthermore, as uncertainty over the economic implications of Brexit are likely to continue until a trading agreement has been established, ensuring full GDPR compliance could now be more complicated than before the EU vote. There is also a potential grey area over the applicability of GDPR for UK businesses dealing with EU citizens based within the UK.

Cassidy added: “There is some evidence to suggest that for UK organizations, the timetable for compliance has moved forward. By leaving the EU, the demonstration of compliance could be a longer, more involved procedure for those companies affected.”

In addition, the ICO has made statements to indicate that once the UK leaves the EU, it is likely to introduce new regulations that would be similar in scope to those laid out by GDPR.

John Cassidy concludes: “GDPR is not going away and Brexit is certainly not a green card for those wishing to avoid the reputational damage, financial losses and considerable fines associated with a security breach. These data regulations should not be seen as extra homework to be dodged, they are designed to prevent devastating data breaches that can cost millions and could lose you customers.”

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