Businesses must stay ahead of EC Data Protection Reforms, warns IAB

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It may have been a rather long-winded process but the European Commission‘s Data Protection Reforms could move forward dramatically this year and businesses must begin to prepare for the changes they will bring, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau UK (IAB).

The EC originally put forward proposals in January 2012 to harmonise the existing patchwork of different data protection rules across the continent, and replace what is now a rather outdated UK Data Protection Act 1998.

Two years on progress is finally being made – although it’s still a long haul yet. The reforms are wide ranging but, according to the IAB, there are three new changes that will have the biggest effect of digital advertisers and marketers. These include a broadening of the scope of personal data to include data used for advertising purposes; a requirement for explicit consent to process such data and potential limitations on the ability to build audience segments through profiling.

Anonymous data still up for debate

One of the most interesting discussions that is likely to continue by the Council of Ministers is around the concept of pseudonymous data – a subset of personal data that does not directly identify an individual – which is expected to be the focus of discussion in the first half of this year. The IAB says that it feels such talk is the right way to go.

“Since the start of the process the IAB has expressed concerns about the potential impact of the reforms on digital advertising,” it said in a briefing note this week. Instead it says that the inclusion of the concept of pseudonymous data would form: “an integral part in helping to achieve a balanced and forward-looking data protection framework for Europe.”

Following its First Reading in March 2014, it is currently up to the Council of Ministers to determine its viewpoint before trilogue discussions commence but with a number of outstanding issues to be resolved it is unlikely that an agreement between the EU’s national governments, and the commencement of trilogue negotiations, can begin before next summer according to the IAB.

Years to take effect

The trilogue discussions, which would likely take a number of months, would be then followed by a two year implementation period.

However despite the protracted timescales the IAB's regulatory affairs manager, Yves Schwarzbart, is encouraging businesses to stay ahead of developments and remain engaged in the process to ensure they don’t underestimate the changes they will likely have to implement when they do finally come into force.

“Irrespective of the outcome of the outstanding negotiations it is very likely that businesses will have to make adjustments to their operations as part of complying with the future law. Early preparation will be vital,” he said.

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