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10/4/2018
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Chris Babel
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GDPR Report Card: Some Early Gains but More Work Ahead

US companies paid the most, to date, to meet the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, according to a recent study, but UK companies made greater progress in achieving compliance goals.

The May 25 deadline to comply with the European Union's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has come and gone, and the question on many security and privacy professionals' minds is: How did we do? In June 2018, Dimensional Research conducted a new survey, following on the heels of a 2017 study of 200 privacy professionals, this time with 600 IT and privacy professionals in the US, UK, and EU (non-UK), to get some answers.

As it turns out, US and UK companies made some compliance gains in the 10 months that passed between the two surveys, but not nearly enough to make it to the finish line at scale. When it came down to the wire, UK companies made greater progress than US companies; US companies went from 4% fully compliant in 2017 to 12% compliant in 2018, while UK companies went from 3% fully compliant in 2017 to 21% compliant in 2018. The 2018 survey report sheds light on several interesting aspects of GDPR compliance, including the main drivers to comply, budget spending, challenges, and a glimpse of what post-deadline life entails. Let's take a look.

Compliance Efforts Were Fueled by Meeting Customer Expectations
Although much was made in the public debate about the potentially large fines that could be issued against companies that did not achieve compliance, respondents were motivated more by a desire to meet customer and partner expectations than by fear of fines or lawsuits. In fact, meeting customer expectations was the top motivator for all companies, regardless of the level of regulations in their market. EU companies reported that their compliance efforts were also motivated by internal company values.

Primary reasons for investing in GDPR compliance, by region, were:

  • Meet customer expectations: US 59%, UK 58%, EU 54%.
  • Support company values: US 48%, UK 47%, EU 52%.
  • Fear of fines or class action lawsuits: US 41%, UK 38%, EU 39%.

US Companies Paid the Most to Comply with GDPR
In the 2017 survey, 83% of the US privacy professionals surveyed expected GDPR spending to be at least $100,000, compared with 69% of UK companies that expected to spend the same amount. In reality, based on the 2018 survey, 68% of respondents across regions reported spending more than six figures on GDPR compliance. US respondents had significantly higher GDPR budgets, with many spending in the millions.

  • 25% of US companies spent over $1 million, compared with10% UK and 7% EU.
  • 10% of US companies spent over $2.5 million, compared with 2% UK and 3% EU.
  • Across all regions, a larger percentage of companies that are not in highly regulated industries plan to spend over $1 million more by the end of 2018 (15%) than companies that are highly regulated (12%).

A Majority Are Positive about GDPR's Impact on Business
Despite the large GDPR budgets, most companies surveyed (65%) say that the GDPR journey was worth it and have a positive view about its impact on their business. Overall, only 15% report that GDPR's impact would be negative, and 20% didn't see it having an impact either positively or negatively. Larger companies with over 10,000 employees are more skeptical of GDPR, with only 51% reporting a positive perception of it. More than half (54%) of companies in highly regulated industries had a positive perception versus 68% for companies not in highly regulated markets.

I mentioned earlier that 12% of US companies considered themselves fully compliant. Yes, that is not a very high number, but by the end of 2018, 74% of respondents expect to be compliant and nearly all respondents by the end of 2019 (at 93%). What does all this tell us? The numbers show that companies have devoted an immense amount of effort and expense to meet the GDPR deadline, but there is a lot of work yet to be done to achieve full GDPR compliance, specifically in areas of monitoring, maintaining, and demonstrating ongoing compliance in a repeatable and efficient manner. The good news is that companies realize that the effort and expense will have a positive effect on their businesses and process was well worth the investment.

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As CEO of TrustArc, formerly known as TRUSTe, Chris has led the company through significant growth and transformation into a leading global privacy compliance and risk management company. Before joining TrustArc, Chris spent over a decade building online trust, most recently ... View Full Bio
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