The anger surrounding the illicit use of Facebook data to breach people's privacy and sway elections is a prime example of why new data regulations are imminent, according to a leading lawyer.
Many organisations of all sizes are currently scrambling to ensure they meet the demands of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will be enforced from May 25.
The regulation is seen by many as yet more bureaucracy for business, but David Preece, corporate law partner at FBC Manby Bowdler Solicitors, notes that recent events highlight the issue from the perspective of individuals.
"GDPR does put more pressure on businesses and other organisations to know what data they hold, how it is secured, who has access to it and how they will share that information with the people it is about. That's a lot of work, but it's notable in this data-driven world and the controversy over Facebook data being hoovered up by Cambridge Analytica for such purposes underlines why change is coming."
Cambridge Analytica, a British company, has been found to have bought data on around 50 million Facebook users which was gathered without their knowledge or explicit consent. This data has been implicated in the company's work to influence both the election of US President, Donald Trump, and in the outcome of the Brexit vote.
David Preece explains: "There could be huge fallout from this case for many parties. For the rest of us it highlights the nature of the new data economy we are in. Every user has value and has the right to know what's being done with their information. For business, that information can be an asset, as long as it's collected, traded and otherwise handled legally. When we get this right, everyone benefits. Without these rules we have a personal information Wild West. Despite some inconvenience for those who have to meet its demands, GDPR it is the product of good intention and should curb the worst excesses of personal data abuse."