General Data Protection Regulation comes into force

Implementation date: 25 May 2018

The General Data Protection Regulation (2016/679 EU) replaces the Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC).

In January 2012, the European Commission announced its intention to reform the data protection rules on the basis that reform is necessary to strengthen online data protection rights and boost Europe's digital economy by harmonising data protection rules across the European Union (EU). The Commission proposed that the existing Directive would be replaced by a Regulation, which means that it would be binding on every member state and would not need to be transposed into national law.

The Regulation harmonises data protection law across the EU and extends it to include all foreign companies processing the data of EU residents. The Regulation:

  • provides for the creation of a single data protection authority instead of the supervisory authority of each member state, and the creation of data protection officers for all public authorities and companies processing high volumes of data;
  • provides for the imposition of a fine of €20 million or 4% of global turnover, whichever is greater;
  • requires the positive consent of individuals to have their data processed;
  • provides for the notification of breaches to the data protection authority; and
  • extends the special categories of information, such as trade union membership and religious belief or political opinion, to include information relating to health.

The Information Commissioner's Office has published Preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): 12 steps to take now and Guidance: what to expect and when, providing guidance on steps that employers can take in preparation for the new law.