The introduction of EU-wide GDPR legislation has ushered in a new era of stringent data security, compelling UK organisations to make data protection a distinct priority like never before.  

While we don’t want to cover old ground by stressing the importance of GDPR compliance (or even how GDPR can actually benefit your business), we want to take a look at the real-world consequences of failing to uphold data protection laws.

After all, these regulations have been put in place to protect all of our personal data, securing both individual privacy and business confidentiality. It’s in all of our interest that data protection is upheld to the full extent of the law.

Has anyone been fined for a GDPR breach? 

Yes – since GDPR was implemented in May 2018, the ICO (the UK’s independent national data protection authority) has been busy taking action against over 100 organisations in both the private and public sector.

These actions include issuing undertakings, enforcement notices and even prosecutions, but the majority of penalties include imposing monetary fines.

Notable GDPR breach fines so far:

  •     Carphone Warehouse, January 2018 – £400,000 fine after serious security failures put both customer and employee data at risk.
  •     Facebook, July 2018 – £500,000 fine (the maximum at the time) over the Cambridge Analytica scandal where the personal data of millions of Facebook users was used without their consent for political advertising.
  •     Bupa, September 2018 – £175,000 for failing to implement security measure that would effectively protect their customers’ personal information.
  •     Heathrow Airport, October 2018 – £120,000 fine for failing to secure the personal data held on its network.
  •     Uber, November 2018 – £385,000 fine for failing to protect their customers’ and drivers’ personal information during a cyber attack.
  •     British Airways, July 2019 – £183 million fine for a data breach that compromised the personal details of approximately 500,000 customers.
  •     Marriott International, July 2019 – £99 million fine for failing to protect the personal data of roughly 339 million guests.

For a full list of organisations and companies fined under GDPR please refer to the ICO’s enforcement action page.

How much is a GDPR fine?

The most annoying of all answers – it depends. While pre-May 2018 data protection legislation capped the maximum fine for a breach to £500,000 (see Facebook fine above), GDPR introduced a much stricter, two-tier fines system that related to the offending company’s revenue: 

  1.     Up to €10 million, or 2% of annual global turnover – whichever is higher; or
  2.     Up to €20 million, or 4% of annual global turnover – whichever is higher.

Maximum fine for GDPR

As shown above, the maximum fine a company can be fined for GDPR non-compliance is €20 million or 4% of that company’s annual worldwide revenue. This penalty can be applied to any failure to comply with any of GDPR’s data protection principles.

So, if we look at the case of the British Airways data breach mentioned above, the £183 million sum they faced was the result of a 1.5% fine by the ICO on their global turnover. If the ICO had chosen to enforce the maximum 4% fine, British Airways could have faced a bill of approximately £489 million!

While this example may highlight the lenience that the ICO can exercise when investigating GDPR breaches, it also stresses the very considerable and very real fines that can and are being enforced in the UK.    

Can individuals be fined under GDPR? 

Yes – the EU specifically states that GDPR legislation “regulates the processing by an individual, a company or an organisation of personal data relating to individuals in the EU.” These data protection regulations apply to any individual or organisation that uses another party’s data “outside the personal sphere, (such as) for socio-cultural or financial activities.”

There have already been dozens of individuals who have faced punitive action by the ICO as a direct result of data protection violations and GDPR non-compliance (the Data Protection Act 2018 is the UK’s implementation of GDPR). In most cases, this involved prosecution, which typically resulted in hefty fines, coverings costs and victim surcharges.

At Flexible Storage, our document storage services are fully compliant with GDPR regulations, so you know your documents will be in the safest possible hands. Get in touch with one of our professional storage consultants today to see how we can help you protect your confidential data, avoid any fines and keep your company operating at maximum potential. 

August 15, 2019

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