Six steps from the IAB on how to cope with the GDPR following the Brexit vote

Yves Schwarzbart, Head of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at IAB UK, calls on the UK digital ad industry to carry on and focus on its strengths, despite Brexit uncertainties.

Yves Schwarzbart

Few would disagree that preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was the talk of the town before 23 June 2016 – well, at least amongst those in the industry interested in policy. Then came Brexit and the vote of the UK public to leave the European Union (EU) appears to have changed everything – or has it?

On 7 July, we opened the doors of our new events and training space in central London to bring together experts from industry, legal and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to discuss Brexit, its possible ramifications on the UK’s (still) thriving digital advertising industry and the GDPR.

Little wonder then that the feeling of uncertainty dominated the start of the day. As the event went on, though, one message gradually became very clear: it’s important to remind ourselves on one of Britain’s finest traditions – to keep calm and carry on. 

Because whatever the future relationship between the UK and the EU holds, the GDPR will apply from 25 May 2018 to all companies processing the personal data of individuals in the EU in almost all cases – regardless of where the business is located. Equally important, the underlying realities of a need to have strong data protection practices in place have not changed. Consumer trust and confidence are essential to a thriving digital world in which data provides the oxygen. As Iain Bourne, Group Manager (Policy Delivery) from the ICO pointed out:

“It almost goes without saying that data protection law is a real facilitator of the online economy. It gives valuable protections and sets out clear rules. There is now global acceptance of the need for good data protection and privacy laws.” 

So in times of unpredictability, removing uncertainties over data protection obligations are a logical way forward. 

At the IAB we therefore recommend that companies take the following six steps:

1      Familiarise yourself with the GDPR and analyse their impact on your specific business model (e.g. legal advice).

2      Bring together key departments / teams to begin assessing the changes that need to be made and seek senior level buy-in.

3      Designate responsibility for transition to a member of staff / a team within your organisation and give them the resources they need.

4      Take stock, assess current practices (incl. AdChoices) and develop a roadmap of compliance – in many areas this is an evolution rather than a revolution.

5      Get involved in your local / regional IABs – they will be a valuable source of information and play a key role in the implementation process.

6      Follow your local Data Protection Authorities (DPAs) & the Article 29 Working Party – the guidance they issue will become hugely relevant such as the ICO’s recent overview of the GDPR.

Beyond the realms of regulations, there are more reasons to be optimistic. UK digital advertising grew 16.4% in 2015 and the industry has a history of growth even in challenging times, expanding at 5.8% in the wake of the recession caused by the credit crunch in 2008.

So, however uncertain the marketplace may be at this moment in time, at the IAB we strongly believe in the positive case for digital advertising in the UK, building on the reputation of a medium that delivers effectiveness and leaves ample room for innovation and creativity.

This country boasts an array of skills, talent and infrastructure that is almost unrivaled in the world. Coupled with the UK’s traditionally pragmatic application of data protection rules which favours workable outcomes over dogmatic idealism and the future of this industry continues to look bright.

For any specific questions on Brexit or GDPR, feel free to contact me directly at

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