One-Third of Global Orgs Don't Understand GDPR Compliance

A global survey that explores how well organizations understand Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and their readiness for it has uncovered widespread confusion about GDPR compliance criteria and an overall lack of preparation.

A survey from WatchGuard Technologies that examined the views of more than 1,600 organizations across the globe found that with the GDPR deadline set for May 25, 2018, a staggering 37% of respondents simply don’t know whether or not their organization needs to comply.

Also, more than a quarter (28%) believe their organization doesn't need to comply at all.

According to the GDPR criteria, any company that stores or processes personal information about EU citizens must demonstrate compliance. Of the respondents who don’t believe the law applies to their organization, one in seven (14%) collect personal data from EU citizens, while 28% of respondents who were unsure about GDPR compliance also collect this type of information. So, not only is there a general lack of awareness about GDPR, but the survey findings also highlight that companies are misinterpreting which types of data constitute a mandate for compliance.

“Once enforcement for this new legislation begins, companies all over the world will feel its impact,” said Corey Nachreiner, CTO of WatchGuard. “Unfortunately, the data shows that an alarming amount of organizations are still unaware or mistaken about the necessity for GDPR compliance, leaving them three steps behind at this stage. “In the Americas alone, just 16% of organizations believe they’ll need to comply. With sensitive customer data and noncompliance fines at stake, every company with access to data from European citizens needs to ensure they truly understand GDPR and its ramifications.”

While many organizations have been aware of GDPR for some time, just 10% of respondents believe their company is currently 100% ready for its inception. In another illustration of the lack of clarity and communication around GDPR, 44% of respondents stated that they don’t actually know how close their organization is to compliance.

Of those who reported that their organization needs to comply with GDPR (35% of total respondents), 86% believe they currently have a solid compliance strategy in place; with firewalls, VPN and encryption identified as the security measures most likely to be involved in these strategies.

But, 51% of respondents believe that their organization will need to make significant changes to their IT infrastructure in order to comply. As such, time is running out, and companies are feeling the pressure. Respondents from organizations that are not yet GDPR compliant estimate it will take an average of seven months to complete the requirements. To bridge the gap, nearly half (48%) of respondents’ organizations are seeking—or might seek—compliance assistance from an outside party.

“Penalties for noncompliance are steep and the deadline is just around the corner,” said Nachreiner. “Companies stand to lose 4% of their worldwide revenue if they haven’t met all the requirements by next May. The only way to prevent unnecessary fines and frustration is to take a good hard look at the criteria, assemble a GDPR plan of action and begin implementing it immediately.”  

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