What is General Data Protection Regulations aka GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a vital piece of legislation brought in by the European Union (EU) to protect the privacy and personal information of folks within the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA). It kicked off on 25 May 2018. The regulation's got a wide reach, covering not just businesses within the EU but also those outside the region if they flog goods or services to, or keep an eye on the activities of, EU residents. This means it's got worldwide significance, including for Aussie businesses that deal with EU customers.

Core principles of the GDPR include:

  • Consent: Businesses need to get clear go-ahead from people before they collect, handle, or store their personal info. This consent must be given freely, be clear-cut, informed, and straightforward. You may have seen how this occurs on various websites where a popup box or bar is on the screen asking for consent for things like Cookies etc. 
  • Right to Access: Individuals can get their hands on their personal data and find out how it's being used.
  • Data Portability: People have the right to get a copy of their personal data in a common format, making it easier to shift it over to another service provider.
  • Privacy by Design: The GDPR demands that data protection is baked into the development of business practices and systems from the get-go.
  • Data Protection Officers (DPOs): Some businesses have to name a DPO to make sure they're in line with GDPR rules.
  • Breach Notification: If there's a data breach, businesses must tip off the proper regulatory body within 72 hours and sometimes the people impacted.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) directly applies to all member countries of the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). As of my last update in April 2023, the EU comprises 27 member countries, with the EEA extending this coverage to include Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. Therefore, GDPR is enforceable across these nations, providing a unified framework for data protection within them.

Nations currently covered are,

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

However, the reach of GDPR extends well beyond these member states. It also impacts companies and organisations outside the EU/EEA if they process personal data in connection with offering goods or services to, or monitor the behaviour of, individuals in the EU/EEA. This means that businesses and organisations around the world, if they interact with individuals within the EU/EEA under certain conditions, must adhere to GDPR.

Moreover, countries outside the EU/EEA have been influenced by GDPR and have adopted or are considering adopting similar data protection laws to ensure they offer adequate protection for personal data as required by GDPR for the transfer of personal data from the EU/EEA to third countries. Some countries have also sought adequacy decisions from the European Commission, which affirm that their data protection levels are essentially equivalent to the protections provided by GDPR, facilitating smoother data transfer between these countries and the EU/EEA.

List of Countries with data protection laws similar to the GDPR

  • Switzerland
  • Bahrain 
  • Israel
  • Qatar
  • Turkey
  • Kenya 
  • Mauritius 
  • Nigeria 
  • South Africa 
  • Uganda 
  • Japan 
  • South Korea
  • New Zealand
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Uruguay 
  • Canada 

 It's all part of a worldwide move towards tighter data protection rules, showing a growing concern over privacy matters in our digital world.