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General Data Protection Regulation (EU)

In April 2016, the European Union published the final text of Regulation (EU) 2016/679 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect in 2018, after a two-year implementation period. It replaces EU Directive 95/46/EC, which has been repealed.

The GDPR regulates the use of personal data and the free movement of such data across a wide range of sectors. As a regulation, the GDPR is a directly binding legislative act that must be applied in its entirety across the EU. (A directive is a legislative act that sets out a goal that all EU countries much achieve but leaves it to individual countries to devise their own laws on how to reach and implement them.)

However, under the GDPR individual member states may maintain or introduce further conditions, including limitations, relating to certain issues, such as the processing of genetic or health data.

The GDPR includes:

  • higher fines, based on global turnover, for firms contravening the new regulation
  • requirements to appoint a data protection officer if the institution handles significant amounts of sensitive or personal data
  • direct obligations on data processors in defined circumstances
  • data protection ‘by design’ (data protection safeguards to be built into firms’ products and services from the earliest stages of development)

The UK’s Data Protection Act 1998 implemented the previous directive, and will continue to govern data use in the UK until the new regulation comes into force. The GDPR will replace any incompatible provisions in this piece of national law, which may be amended or repealed in the future.

We will update this page later in the year with a briefing on the implications of the GDPR for the Network.

Further reading

Regulation (EU) 2016/679 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data


Page last updated: 05/05/2017