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The regulation, which replaces the current Data Protection Act, will also force companies to take greater care of people's personal data, in particular they must declare if there is any breach or loss immediately (such as if their servers are hacked), and have a valid reason founded in law as to why they ask for certain personal information, for example sexuality or religion. They will also have to follow far stricter guidelines on seeking consent to keep and use someone's personal information.
However, research by Exonar, a leading provider of GDPR data mapping and data inventory solutions, showed that once the GDPR and a SAR was explained to individuals, 57% of people would want to raise a SAR.
The more important the company is to our every day lives the more we want to know. In particular:
• 33% said they'd ask their bank
• 16% their credit card provider
• 16% said they'd ask their social media platforms
• 11% said their mobile network provider
• 8% said they'd ask a utility
• 5% said a retailer
• 10% said they'd ask their employer and 4% their ex-employer.
Julie Evans, COO of Exonar, said May will mark a turning point in privacy and companies should expect that millions of us may submit a SAR: "The good news for consumers is they won't be charged to obtain the information companies hold on them and they will have a far greater say in how the information is used. They'll even have the 'right to be forgotten'. But at the moment people are ignorant about the changes.
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"That's good news for businesses because they need all the time they can get to be ready to deal with the influx in requests – take the banking sector for example, around 21 million of us have a current account, so the banks could expect to see around 7 million people raise a SAR. Natwest even tweeted recently that it thinks there will be huge demand in SARs when it drops the £10 fee."
"However, I don't think making SARs free of charge will be the only thing to drive our curiosity. We want to know how our information is being used and that companies are taking care of it. We expect the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) will start a campaign to educate the public about the changes and I expect this will be it's main message – 'control who knows what, and have a say in how they use it'."
As part of the research individuals were told that the amount of information held on a person could run to hundreds or even thousands of pieces of paper*. When the survey respondents heard this, 20% said how shocked they were that there could be this much info on them, with 15% saying that if companies held that much information they would want to know exactly what it was and a further 10% went as far as to say they'd want companies to forget about them altogether. 27% said they were worried their data could be hacked or stolen, and 27% said they were concerned it was being sold to third parties without their knowledge.
There were also environmental concerns: A third of people (31%) said they thought SARs were a tremendous waste of paper and would prefer to receive them in a secure digital format - just over a quarter were surprised all SARs weren't digitised anyway. 12% said environmental concerns would put them off doing a SAR.
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Evans added: "Currently the ICO is encouraging SARs to be delivered in a 'permanent form'. Many businesses are turning to paper because they simply don't have all their records in a single digital format or they don't know how to provide the files securely and coherently in digital form. But there's genuine concern among the public about the amount of paper that will be produced, the security risk of holding the data let alone shipping it, as well as the impact to the environment.
"The cost to business will be huge – just imagine the time a bank will need to take copies of all the information held about an individual across all the different departments; bank statements, credit card information, insurance details, CRM data, credit checks, emails and letters etc. There's no way to recoup this cost other than to put prices up across the board. Consumers will vote with their feet so going digital has to be at the heart of the GDPR strategy. There's too much risk involved in managing paper – something could easily be missed and a business could end up breaching the laws inadvertently. Instead businesses have to find a way to categorise and manage data electronically and automate their processes if they are to survive the huge numbers of requests they will receive."
About the research: 1028 adults were surveyed between 6th and 10th October 2017, by Opinion Matters.
* People can raise a request today but companies can take as long as 40 days and charge for the service. An Exonar employee asked their bank, with whom they have been a customer for 20 years, for the information they held on them. This picture (https://mediaserver.responsesource.com/mediabank/18328/Exonar%20SARs%20Campaign%20%2717/Example%20of%20one%20SAR_3.jpg) features all the paper the employee received. It amounts to eight reams of paper.
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