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ICO Highlights Prevalence of GDPR Myths

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has reported taking 500+ calls per week reporting GDPR data breaches, but one-third of the calls appear to be based on myths and misunderstandings or over-reporting about GDPR matters.

Update After Freedom of Information Request

The update by the ICO about how things appear to be going just three months after the introduction of GDPR came shortly after a Freedom of Information (FOI) by law firm EMW yielded figures that showed that the number of complaints between 25th May and 3rd July 2018 rose to 6,281 versus 2,417 during the same period in 2017.


A key problem highlighted by the ICO is that many companies feel that in order to achieve compliance and avoid being penalised, they have to be transparent to the degree that they “over-report” by reporting everything. Also, many of the reports are incomplete.

One common misconception highlighted by the ICO that is leading to unnecessary calls is that instead of reporting suspected data breaches to the ICO within 72 hours ‘from the point of discovery’, many companies appear to believe that the mandatory reporting period is 72 ‘working’ hours.

Fine Fears Unfounded

Another key point that the ICO was keen to make was that even though there have been some high profile cases that have involved big companies receiving big fines since the introduction of GDPR, many thousands of incidents are closed each year without financial penalty but with advice, guidance and reassurance offered instead. Another point that the ICO would like to make known is that the real norm of the work they do is simply audits, advisory visits and guidance sessions.

In fact, ICO Deputy Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone has been quoted as saying that businesses that take their data protection responsibilities seriously “have nothing to fear from an ICO inspection or investigation”.

Cyber Crime Reports

The ICO has said that almost half of the calls that it received weekly involve some cyber element, and around one-third of calls relate to phishing attacks.

Phishing attacks are still such a popular method of cyber-crime because many companies have been focusing on malware detection and may not have trained and educated their staff about the risks, how to spot phishing attacks, and what to do about them.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Of course, organisations need to take their data protection responsibilities seriously to protect customers and the company itself, but part of dealing with that responsibility correctly is being clear on what GDPR actually requires a company to do; how and when. This is why GDPR requires (via mandatory appointment under Article 37) organisations / companies to have a data protection officer (DPO) i.e. someone tasked with the responsibility and security leadership role to oversee data protection strategy and implementation, and to ensure proper compliance with GDPR requirements. Part of the responsibilities of a DPO are to educate the company and train employees about GDPR and how it applies to them and their work. A DPO is required to have expert knowledge of data protection law and practices, and having a person on hand to consult about GDPR matters would be a good way to prevent unnecessary calls and complaints being made to the ICO, and to prevent unnecessary concerns, misunderstandings and mistaken beliefs prevailing within the company that could lead to other problems.