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Sir Bob Geldof slams “scaremongering” ahead of GDPR compliance deadline at BETT 2018

The EU’s impending GDPR-compliance deadline has taken centre stage at BETT 2018, where outspoken political activist, erstwhile Boomtown Rats frontman, and father of oddly named children Sir Bob Geldof led a discussion dedicated to ‘debunking the myths’ surrounding the new data protection regulations. News and Features Editor James Laird reports live from the ExCeL London.

He might not like Mondays, but it turns out that certain EU-led edicts keep Sir Bob up all night – at least when it comes to how they may affect schools. 

Chairing a panel on the subject of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – which is set to become law on May 25, 2018 – Geldof said that “fear, scaremongering and confusion” continued to surround the introduction of the new provision.

In his opening remarks, Geldof admitted that despite data protection being “probably the hottest subject in the news,” he still didn’t really understand what it was all about – “until five minutes ago.”

“It says that everyone knows what it [GDPR] is – but I didn’t until five minutes ago. Data protection is probably the hottest subject in the news today. It’s replacing the 20-year-old Data Protection Act [yet] there’s fear and confusion and a lot of scaremongering – mistaken ideas about what this is,” Sir Bob Geldof said.

As a quick primer, the GDPR is an incoming EU regulation intended to give individuals more control over how their personal data is collected and used. In the UK, it will replace the 1998 Data Protection Act, which was enacted the same year that Google was founded. 

Proponents of the GDPR say that it will bring existing directives in line with the new realities of the internet and social media age – as well as helping to unify data protection rules across EU member states. The EU also argues that having clearer compliance guidelines could save businesses around €2.3bn a year. 

However, despite the GDPR being ‘adopted’ back in April 2016 ahead of this year’s May compliance deadline, Sir Bob and others contend that public sector organisations – in this case, schools – risk being caught in the crosshairs of a measure largely targeted at better regulating the practices of big tech firms.

Talking about the heftier fines for non-compliance attached to the new guidelines, Russell Holland – a barrister at Michelmores Solicitors – commented:

“There are potential fines, but unless you’ve done something terrible, you won’t get a fine. It’s not as bad as many people are making out. If you think about how much the world has changed since 1998, it’s a good time to look at what’s going on in technology.”

Steve Baines, Data Protection Officer at Groupcall Ltd, agreed:

“The first thing is to try to dispel some of the myths. The ICO [Information Commission’s Office] is…trying to persuade the big guys – Facebook, Microsoft –  to comply. There’s a myth you have to report every single breach. [That’s] complete nonsense.”

Concluding the eagerly anticipated BETT 2018 panel, Sir Bob reflected that while “there’s no time left on this” and “it’s not optional,” the GDPR risked putting “an intolerable burden on schools to manage new technologies and social ways of behaving”.

Just how the GDPR is enforced when it comes into effect later this year remains to be seen, but the message at BETT 2018 was clear – go after the piranhas making the big bucks from the data of ordinary individuals. Not the schools and educators trying to stimulate the minds of children.

Share your thoughts on the GDPR and its impending compliance deadline by tweeting James @scavgourmet or all of us @TrustedReviews.

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