Brian Hills: Advantages of new GDPR data protection rules

In 1998 there was no Google, Facebook or Twitter, no mobile internet, no 'big data'.

'GDPR will be a catalyst for innovation,' says The Data Lab's Brian Hills. Picture: John Devlin
'GDPR will be a catalyst for innovation,' says The Data Lab's Brian Hills. Picture: John Devlin

Yet this was when the last major update to data protection regulation in Europe took place. Since then, the internet economy has become an integral part in all of our lives.

It is no surprise, then, that the next major update to data protection legislation in Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), will be a major challenge for many.

With a year until the legislation comes into force, there is an increasing chorus of fear to ensure compliance and avoid large fines. As Amit Pau of Ariande Capital said: “If brands don’t handle data properly, it won’t be the oil, it will be the asbestos for organisations.”

However, there is a positive side; GDPR will be a catalyst for innovation, creating opportunities to add value to both customers and balance sheets.

Here are five opportunities to drive innovation from GDPR:

1: Trust is the currency in the age of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). Earning, building and retaining customer trust will key to business growth. New start-ups will disrupt incumbents and privacy by design will drive competitive advantage.

2: Developing the personal data economy to deliver value to customers. The GDPR legislation strengthens the rights of individuals on consent and viewing data stored about them. New personal data services technologies such as MyDex and Meeco give power to consumers to own their data and choose who they share it with and for what return.

3: Stimulate new products and services. The new legislation requires organisations to map their data assets – so they will have a much clearer view of the data assets they hold, how these are linked and the teams that use them. Therefore innovative organisations can look to create new products and services that can produce new revenue streams such as Mallzee’s Product Intelligence or Skyscanner’s Travel Insight.

4: New algorithms and architectures. The legislation promotes transparency in data-driven algorithms and decision-making. Organisations that can create (or evolve) their algorithms from black box to white box to provide decision-making details to customers and options to opt out will be ahead of their competitors.

5: Organisation and culture. One of the biggest challenges in delivering value from data is organisational culture and data silos. Organisations successfully adopting the new legislation will need to break down these barriers to succeed, creating a fertile ground for innovation.

Adopting GDPR may initially be painful, but there are great opportunities to use it to increase competitive advantage. Whilst fear may be the primary catalyst for investment, the opportunities to innovate could provide huge returns.

Brian Hills is head of data at The Data Lab