GDPR: What Businesses Need to Know to Avoid Costly Fines

    skycentral.co.uk | GDPR: What Businesses Need to Know to Avoid Costly Fines

    What is GDPR?

    The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a set of data protection and privacy laws that aim to provide individuals with greater control over their personal information. It was introduced in the European Union (EU) in 2018 and applies to any business that handles the personal data of EU citizens, regardless of where the business is located.

    Key Principles of GDPR

    GDPR is based on several key principles that businesses must comply with:

    • Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency: Businesses must process personal data in a lawful, fair, and transparent manner, ensuring individuals are informed about the purpose and use of their data.
    • Purpose limitation: Personal data must be collected for specific, explicit, and legitimate purposes and not used in any way that is incompatible with those purposes.
    • Data minimization: Businesses should only collect and retain personal data that is necessary for the intended purpose and should not keep it for longer than necessary.
    • Accuracy: Personal data should be accurate and up to date. Businesses must take reasonable steps to ensure data accuracy and rectify any inaccuracies promptly.
    • Storage limitation: Personal data should be stored in a manner that allows for identification of individuals for no longer than necessary.
    • Integrity and confidentiality: Businesses must implement appropriate security measures to protect personal data against unauthorized access, loss, destruction, or alteration.

    Consent Requirements

    Under GDPR, businesses must obtain explicit and informed consent from individuals before collecting or processing their personal data. Consent should be freely given, specific, and unambiguous, and individuals should have the right to withdraw their consent at any time. Businesses should keep records of how and when consent was obtained.

    Individual Rights

    GDPR grants individuals several rights in relation to their personal data, including:

    • Right to be informed: Individuals have the right to be informed about how their personal data is processed, including the purposes, recipients, and retention periods.
    • Right of access: Individuals can request access to their personal data held by a business and obtain a copy of that data.
    • Right to rectification: Individuals have the right to request the correction of inaccurate or incomplete personal data.
    • Right to erasure: Individuals can request the deletion of their personal data in certain circumstances, such as when it is no longer necessary for the purpose it was collected or when consent is withdrawn.
    • Right to data portability: Individuals can request to receive their personal data in a machine-readable format and transmit it to another controller.
    • Right to object: Individuals have the right to object to the processing of their personal data, including for direct marketing purposes.

    Data Breach Notification

    If a business experiences a data breach that poses a risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals, it must notify the supervisory authority within 72 hours of becoming aware of the breach. Individuals affected by the breach should also be informed without undue delay if the breach is likely to result in a high risk to their rights and freedoms.

    Appointment of a Data Protection Officer (DPO)

    Some businesses are required to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO) to oversee GDPR compliance. A DPO should have expert knowledge of data protection laws and practices and should provide advice and monitor the implementation of GDPR within the organization.

    Consequences of Non-Compliance

    Non-compliance with GDPR can lead to severe consequences for businesses. The supervisory authorities have the power to impose fines of up to 20 million euros or 4% of the annual global turnover, whichever is higher. Fines can be imposed for various violations, including failure to obtain valid consent, failure to adequately secure personal data, or failure to comply with an individual’s rights.

    Steps Businesses Should Take for GDPR Compliance

    To avoid costly fines and ensure compliance with GDPR, businesses should take the following steps:

    • Educate staff: Businesses should train their employees on the principles and requirements of GDPR to ensure they understand their obligations and how to handle personal data correctly.
    • Audit data: Conduct a thorough audit of the personal data your business possesses, including its source, purpose, and lawful basis for processing.
    • Review and update privacy policies: Make sure privacy policies clearly inform individuals about the purpose and use of their personal data, the legal basis for processing, and their rights under GDPR.
    • Obtain valid consent: Review and update consent processes to ensure they meet GDPR requirements. Make sure consent is freely given, specific, and unambiguous.
    • Implement security measures: Take appropriate security measures to protect personal data, including encryption, access controls, and regular data backups.
    • Respond to individuals’ rights: Establish procedures to handle requests from individuals to exercise their rights, including the right to access, rectification, erasure, and data portability.
    • Monitor and report data breaches: Implement systems to detect and report data breaches promptly to comply with GDPR’s 72-hour notification requirement.
    • Consider appointment of a DPO: Evaluate whether your business is required to appoint a Data Protection Officer and assign the role to an employee or hire an external expert.
    • Maintain documentation: Keep records of GDPR compliance efforts, including policies, procedures, and consent records.


    GDPR has transformed the way businesses handle personal data, putting individuals’ privacy and data protection rights at the forefront. Compliance with GDPR is crucial to avoid the potentially significant financial penalties associated with non-compliance. By understanding the key principles of GDPR, obtaining valid consent, respecting individuals’ rights, securing personal data, and appointing a DPO where necessary, businesses can navigate the complexities of GDPR and ensure they meet the requirements to protect personal data effectively.