Eighty-four per cent of UK small business owners and 43% of senior executives of large companies are unaware of the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation, according to Shred-it's seventh annual Security Tracker research, conducted by Ipsos.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an important new piece of legislation, which will replace existing European data protection laws from May 2018. Its purpose is to bring greater strength and consistency to the data protection given to individuals within the European Union (EU).
The Security Tracker survey also found that only 14% of small business owners and 31% of senior executives were able to correctly identify the fine associated with the new regulation - up to €20 million or 4% of global turnover. This is despite a large proportion of senior executives (95%) and small business owners (87%) claiming to have at least some understanding of their industry's legal requirements.
Businesses which are unaware of the forthcoming legislation and its implications are not only putting themselves at risk of severe financial penalties, but also the reputational damage caused by adverse publicity associated with falling foul of the law. This can often have a greater impact than the fine itself. Research shows that 64% of executives agree that their organisation's privacy and data protection practices contribute to reputation and brand image.
Of those respondents who claim to be aware of the legislation change, only 40% of senior executives have already begun to take action in preparation for the GDPR, in spite of 60% agreeing that the change in legislation would put pressure on their organisation to change its policies related to information security.
The survey also highlights that companies feel the UK Government needs to take more action. Forty-one per cent of small business owners (an 8% increase from 2016) believe that the Government's commitment to information security needs improvement.
Robert Guice, Senior Vice President Shred-it EMEAA, said: "As we approach May 2018, it's crucial that organisations of all sizes begin to take a proactive approach in preparing for the incoming GDPR.
"From implementing stricter internal data protection procedures such as staff training, internal processing audits and reviews of HR policies, to ensuring greater transparency around the use of personal information, businesses must be aware of how the legislation will affect their company to ensure they are fully compliant."
"Governmental bodies such as the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), must take a leading role in supporting businesses to get GDPR ready, by helping them to understand the preparation needed and the urgency in acting now."
"The closer Government, information security experts and UK businesses work together, the better equipped organisations will find themselves come May 2018."