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ICO: UK will be forced to adopt EU data protection regulations

If the UK wishes to continue trading with the EU after Brexit, than its future data protection regulations will need to be the same as those in the EU according to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

Last week's EU Referendum saw UK voters favouring an exit from the European Union and now the ICO has issued a statement saying: “The Data Protection Act remains the law of the land irrespective of the referendum result.” This means that if the UK wants to continue the trade relationship it currently has with the EU that it will be forced to adhere to any data protection regulations made by the union that it is no longer apart of.

The ICO will continue to pay its role as a go-between that helps regulators from other countries work with the EU but now it will work with the UK in addition to countries outside of the continent. In it's statement, the office made clear that UK laws concerning data protection regulations are still in desperate need of reform despite the country's decision to leave the EU: “Having clear laws with safeguards in place is more important than ever given the growing digital economy, and we will be speaking to government to present our view that reform of the UK law remains necessary.”

In order to match the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK will need to pass a similar law before 2018. In 1995, the Data Protection Directive was introduced but its latest iteration takes the Internet, smartphones and social networking into account.

One reason that the GDPR is so essential to the EU is that it includes the power to issue quite large financial penalties to companies that do not comply with its requirements. It is much stricter than the directive that it is replacing and companies found guilty of non-compliance could face fines as large as 4 per cent of their global revenue for the preceding year or € 20 million depending on which figure is higher.

Under the UK Data Protection Act, the maximum penalty is currently just £500,000, which is incredibly low when compared to what the EU is proposing for a maximum fine.

The full impact of Brexit remains to be seen but it could heavily affect the UK's trade with the EU if the proper steps are not taken beforehand to preserve the business relationships between the two sides.

Image Credit: Africa Studio / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.