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What is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

On May 25, 2018, after a lot of planning, new data protection rules started in Europe. These rules, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), have been in effect for years now. They’ve updated the laws that keep people’s personal information safe.

The GDPR replaced old data protection rules in Europe that were nearly two decades old, with some of them first drafted in the 1990s. Since then, our way of life, which involves sharing personal information online, has become more data-focused.

The EU states that GDPR was formulated to “harmonize” data privacy laws across all of its member countries while providing enhanced protection and rights to individuals. GDPR aims to redefine how businesses and other organizations manage the information of individuals who interact with them. Violating the rules may lead to significant fines and damage to reputation.

Although the regulation brings about substantial changes, it is built upon existing data protection principles. Consequently, many experts in the field of data protection, including UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, view GDPR as an evolution rather than a complete overhaul of rights. Denham has noted that for businesses already compliant with pre-GDPR rules, the regulation should represent a “step change.”

Despite the existence of a pre-GDPR transition period, allowing businesses and organizations time to adjust their policies, there remains considerable confusion surrounding the rules. Here is our guide to understanding what GDPR truly entails.

What is General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

GDPR is recognized as the most robust set of data protection rules globally, enhancing individuals’ access to information about them while placing restrictions on organizations’ handling of personal data. The complete GDPR text is a comprehensive document containing 99 individual articles.

This regulation serves as a framework for laws across the European continent, replacing the previous 1995 data protection directive. The final version of GDPR emerged after more than four years of discussions and negotiations, ultimately being adopted by both the European Parliament and European Council in April 2016. The underpinning regulation and directive were then published at the end of that month.

GDPR officially took effect on May 25, 2018. European countries were allowed to make minor adjustments to align with their specific needs. In the UK, this flexibility led to the introduction of the Data Protection Act (2018), supplanting the previous 1998 Data Protection Act.

The strength of GDPR has garnered praise for its progressive approach to the handling of individuals’ personal data, drawing comparisons with the subsequent California Consumer Privacy Act.

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