Data Privacy and Security

What we know, and don't know, about GDPR

Organisations caught up in the machinations of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation could be forgiven for feeling the media frenzy over GDPR is generating more heat than light. With just a year to go before GDPR takes effect on 25 May 2018 we are still in the dark over many areas even if in others we see some glimpses of light.

Based on recent discussions with experts and others in the know, here’s a summary of what we can confidently say we know and what remains nebulous.


We don’t know that much about penalties. Of course the big headline says that organisations can be fined up to four per cent of global annual revenue based on the previous financial year. But will that really happen? Would a German regulator have the gumption to levy a fine running to hundreds of millions of euros against a Volkswagen? Would France do that to an AXA? And would a foreign regulator be more or less likely to impose big hits on one of those companies? “Regulators are saying they’ve got the guts to do it,” says Jonathan Armstrong of law firm Cordery, “but we won’t know until the fat lady sings.”

There’s likely to be a big test case... as with celebrity tax avoiders it will surely be natural for a regulator to make an example of an egregious offender and perhaps a big brand to set an example to others. A lighthouse lawsuit would bring attention and focus to GDPR, showing that regulatory watchdogs have not necessarily been de-fanged. “France has already stated that it wants to make a public example of organisations who breach the regulation once it comes into force to ensure that it isn’t ignored,” notes Chris Bridgland, chief technology officer of storage software giant Veritas.

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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