With dominant companies like Google and Facebook already wielding so much power over the data of everyday individuals, some people are starting to fight back. Although grassroots awareness movements of various kinds are having some effect, the most important developments so far have happened at a much higher level. Likely the most significant of all of these has been a law passed by the Parliament of the European Union in 2016. This EU data protection regulation is the strongest yet, and companies that wish to do business within that vast economic zone must now learn how to abide by it.
That can turn out to be a little more challenging than might be supposed. Compared even to well-known American regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the new EU rules are quite a bit more involved. While HIPAA was aimed at keeping institutional data collectors honest in their dealings with patients, the EU regulations go a lot farther by putting the latter in the driver’s seat.
What this means, in practice, is that there must necessarily be a second dimension involved with compliance. On the one hand, companies collecting personally identifiable data within the borders of the European Union are subject to a whole host of regulations regarding means of obtaining, storing, and disposing of it. These rules alone can be fairly complex to come to terms with, as many businesses are right now discovering.
On the other hand, the relatively new EU regime also empowers individuals with a say in what happens to their own, personal data. That new wrinkle is something that few companies will have dealt with up until this point, and coming to grips with it is turning out to be difficult for some.
In practice, the best way for most to forward into compliance will therefore be to work with a specialist who is already well equipped for this kind of work. For those who do so, competitive advantages can even result as less-resourceful peers are left behind, wondering what to do. While the new rules might be surprisingly complex and involved, it seems almost certain, after all, that they are here to stay.