‘Big Data’ is an issue that has increasingly come to the attention of British businesses and regulators, with the UK data protection regulator describing it as “a way of analysing data that typically uses massive datasets, brings together data from different sources and can analyse the data in real time.”

What is in little doubt is that Big Data also represents a big opportunity to businesses that are able to not only accumulate a large amount of relevant data, but also use it in a manner that genuinely saves time and money and assists in the development of new products, the management of risks and the making of more intelligent strategic decisions.

It is an opportunity that is only likely to heighten with the increasing tendency for business activities to be conducted online, as well as the ever-rising amount of data of which emerging technology is capable of collecting.

However, it is not only businesses that have had reason to take note of Big Data. Various sectoral and cross-sector regulators are also devoting ever-greater scrutiny to it, in the interests of ensuring that the use of Big Data technology does not adversely impact on consumers or otherwise circumnavigate existing legal measures.

What to consider with data protection

In a 2014 report compiled by the Information Commissioner’s Office (IPO), which is responsible for enforcing the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) in the UK, several reminders were issued to organisations of their requirements under the DPA when processing personal data as part of any Big Data strategy.

These included that the processing of personal data must be fair and lawful, organisations must explain to data subjects the purpose for which their data will be processed, and organisations should minimise the amount of data they process and the length of time they keep the data.

Another vital consideration from a legal perspective is the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (the GDPR), which will apply across Europe from 25th May 2018 and has made express provision for some of the concepts associated with Big Data.

Don’t underestimate the business impact

The Big Data phenomenon is another example of how technology develops and evolves much faster than regulation. It seems that businesses presently have much reason to be thankful that both the competition and the financial services regulators choose to exercise regulatory restraint, leaving organisations simply to grapple with data protection regulation.

It would also appear that, for now at least, existing regulation is proving flexible enough to deal with any issues raised. However, it seems inevitable that in the future, multiple layers of legislation will arise in response to the huge increase in data use, and which organisations will need to navigate.

As the regulatory landscape for Big Data looks likely to become more and more complex, London Registrars continue to closely monitor the subject of data protection and will be pleased to advise clients who have any concerns, as per its commitment to helping to ensure the highest standards of company compliance.

July, 2017