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UK data protection complaints have more than doubled since GDPR deadline

The UK’s privacy watchdog has recorded a sharp rise in data protection complaints since GDPR came into force in May.

In the five weeks following the compliance deadline, the Information Commissioner’s Office recorded 6,281 complaints, more than twice as many as were reported over the same period last year.

GDPR, a sweeping overhaul of the European Union’s data protection regime, introduced fines of up to 4 per cent of annual global turnover for businesses that suffer data breaches. Those which fail to report incidents to their local data protection regulator are likely to come in for the highest fines.

The data suggests the legislation has succeeded in increasing transparency around breaches and empowering consumers to report companies when they feel their data has been mishandled. EMW, the law firm that unearthed the data, found that some consumers were making several, repeated complaints.

“We have seen many businesses are currently struggling to manage the burden created by the GDPR, whether or not an incident even needs to be reported,” said EMW’s James Geary, principal of the company’s commercial contracts teams. “The reality of implementation may have taken many businesses by surprise.”

A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner’s Office said that the organisation would be providing more detailed data on the subject in due course.

“But generally, as anticipated, we have seen a rise in personal data breach reports from organisations,” the spokesperson added. “Complaints relating to data protection issues are also up and, as more people become aware of their individual rights, we are expecting the number of complaints to the ICO to increase too.”

The firm also revealed through a freedom of information request that the ICO plans to grow its staff to 720 in the “near future”. As NS Tech reported in May, the regulator faced a brain drain in the run up to the GDPR deadline, as businesses poached its top staff to assist with their compliance efforts.

The government responded by giving the regulator greater flexibility on pay, a measure Jonathan Bamford, head of government and parliament affairs at the regulator, said had started to pay off. “In my area of work, we’ve not seen anything like the turnover that we were seeing,” he told NS Tech in May.