Article

Kate Watkins
Kate Watkins 8 June 2016

In or out? What the EU decision will mean for data

Brexit could mean big change when it comes to handling customer data. Find out how UK businesses could be affected by the referendum.

The EU has a broad reach when it comes to influencing the laws that govern the way businesses operate on the internet. So what would the effects of leaving the EU be for UK businesses and multi-national businesses operating here?

Well, it’s not entirely clear. If the UK chooses Brexit later this month, it won’t mean an immediate end to all EU laws affecting UK companies. For one thing, it may depend on how the law was created: EU regulations are enforceable in every country; EU directives, on the other hand, are left up to the individual nations to implement. That means that if the UK leaves, while regulations could simply stop being law overnight, directives would remain in force unless the UK decided to repeal the legislation.

What’s the UK tech sector’s opinion on Brexit?

According to a poll by Tech London Advocates, an industry group representing almost 3,000 senior members of the capital’s tech scene, 87% of London’s tech firms oppose Brexit, with 10% choosing to remain neutral and only 3% supporting Brexit.

Consumer rights and protection

Many EU rules can be good or bad, depending on your point of view. For example, the EU does quite a lot to protect consumers and give them certain rights. Upcoming data protection legislation will affect the way businesses collect information about consumers online, as well as how they use it for marketing purposes. Among other things, companies will be required to gain unambiguous consent from individuals before sending them marketing communications. It’s reassuring for customers, but a pain for marketers – find out more about the steps you need to take to prepare for the new laws.

Protecting customer data overseas

You may have heard about the Safe Harbour agreement, too. In essence, it was an agreement that US companies would protect the data of EU citizens if it was transferred to the USA, and allowed these companies to self-certify. That agreement was recently ruled to be invalid, and many US companies were forced to do a lot of paperwork to legally be allowed to handle EU customer data again – or stop handling it altogether. If we leave the Union, it’s entirely possible that companies would fall foul of the same EU privacy laws.

Rules on bulk data collection

EU privacy laws also require data collection to be legitimately targeted rather than bulk. The UK government’s so-called ‘snooper’s charter’ requires just such bulk collection of data, and could be another reason the EU might refuse to allow data to be transferred to the UK – at least until certain agreements are made.

So what’s next?

If the UK chooses to stay in the EU, then things will of course just carry on as before. If we vote to leave, then things are a little more uncertain; we don’t know on what terms we might leave, or what policies the government might decide to repeal, change or keep. For now, we’ll just have to wait until the results are in and the dust has settled.

Need some help with your marketing data in the meantime? Get in touch and our experts will be happy to help.

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