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Data privacy

With GDPR, EU takes a step toward addressing data privacy “crisis”

Technology makes collecting data easier than ever, but the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's tax chief urges balance, especially in light of new privacy rules.

Data privacy has never been more topical.

Businesses across the EU and beyond are preparing for May 25, when the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force.

The GDPR is the new set of EU rules that mandate how consumers’ personally identifiable information (PII) must be managed, not just by EU companies, but by any company doing business within the EU or with EU customers.

Reuters Editor At Large Axel Threlfall quizzed Pascal Saint-Amans, director of tax policy at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), who has been active in the debate around these new regulations.

The last time Threlfall and Pascal Saint-Amans met, Saint-Amans predicted “a privacy and data crisis” brought on by:

  • A newfound ease of collecting data
  • A drive to collect data for new purposes, like taxes
  • Regulations that have not kept up with either of those trends.

As an example of the conundrum created by privacy clashing with progress, he cited balancing the need to respect consumers’ personal lives against the push for tax transparency and the kind technological advancement that is aided by available data.

“There is obviously a need to protect people’s data, but it’s a bit paradoxical,” he said. “The more you protect data, the more you make it difficult to collect, the more you hamper the development of, say, artificial intelligence. You need to find the right balance.”

Saint-Amans told Threlfall he doesn’t think GDPR is going to be the answer to everything, but he does see it as something of a start.

“What, clearly, (GDPR) shows is people are concerned, and that’s particularly here in Europe,” Saint-Amans said. “This issue of data privacy and the use of data is tied to many regulatory issues, including tax, and we’re just starting to see the beginning of that.

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