Most people last week were bombarded with emails, that you may have felt you were actually a victim of this new data protection legislation yourself. But as the calm is restored after the last few weeks of madness you might wonder what is GDPR all about and crucially what does it mean for victims.

The general data protection regulations which are more regularly referred to as GDPR is a new EU law that was legislated several years ago and came into force on 25th May 2018. With any EU law it needs to be written into national law and we will see that happen in the form of the Data protection bill which should emerge in the coming months. The new law strengthens and modernises the data protection act 1998 which was well out of date considering the development of technology.

Modernisation of a law that was out of date seems sensible but after the sudden frenzy of emails last week it makes you question whether the change is a good or a bad thing. Let’s consider the impact on victims

Data is a valuable asset and we certainly know that when it gets in the wrong hands it can leave us vulnerable. Imagine your bank details in the hands of fraudsters or the details of your next holiday in the hand of burglars, or your vulnerability highlighted to those that may take advantage. It seems sensible that we should have more control over our data and should be able to choose who we trust to have it. The new law gives us those rights. It also give us more transparency and companies have to tell us what they do with our data hence all the emails with updated privacy policies. When you think about the law protecting us you can’t see any disadvantage.

But data protection law has some downsides. It can prevent people from sharing information for fear of doing the wrong thing and it’s not surprising that people are anxious as the new law brings in much larger fines and potentially criminal charges for those who misuse data. But sharing data can be essential, particularly when it’s to protect people or when it’s to benefit them. In the past criminal justice agencies would pass over information to support agencies to ensure that victims are then offered support services. The new law was certainly not designed to stop people getting much needed support but it’s possible that a law that makes people more cautious might have that affect. Let’s hope that as GDPR embeds itself we don’t have victims of data protection.