Data protection after the end of the Brexit transition period for small businesses and organisations

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Information Commissioner’s Office, “Data protection at the end of the transition period”, retrieved on 25th February 2021, licensed under the Open Government Licence.

Guidance and resources to help businesses and organisations be data protection compliant after the end of the transition period for leaving the EU.

The Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020. As part of the new trade deal, the EU has agreed to delay transfer restrictions for at least four months, which can be extended to six months (known as the bridge). The UK Government are seeking adequacy decisions from the European Commission. In the absence of adequacy decisions at the end of the bridge, transfers from the European Economic Area (EEA) to the UK will need to comply with EU GDPR transfer restrictions.

If you receive personal data from the EEA, we recommend you put alternative safeguards in place before the end of April, if you haven’t done so already. We will keep our guidance under review, and update it as the situation evolves. Please continue to monitor the ICO website for updates.

This guidance is designed to help small to medium-sized UK businesses and organisations keep personal data flowing with Europe (the EEA) at the end of the transition period. (The EEA is the EU plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.)

If the EU Commission make adequacy decisions about the UK, most of the data protection rules affecting small to medium-sized businesses and organisations will stay the same.

The UK is committed to maintaining the high standards of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and the government has incorporated it into UK law as the UK GDPR.

If you are a UK business or organisation that already complies with the GDPR and has no contacts or customers in the EEA, you do not need to do much more to be data protection compliant.

If you are a UK business or organisation that receives personal data from contacts in the EEA, you need to take extra steps to ensure that the data can continue to flow if the bridge ends without adequacy.

If you are a UK business or organisation with an office, branch or other established presence in the EEA, or if you have customers in the EEA, you need to comply with both UK and EU data protection regulations. You may need to designate a representative in the EEA.

Take stock so you can identify overseas data acquired before the end of the transition period (known as ‘legacy data’). In the absence of adequacy, data processed before 01 January 2021 will be subject to the EU GDPR as it stood on 31 December 2020 (known as the ‘frozen GDPR’). ICO’s End of Transition Interactive Tool (external link) will help you decide if you are processing ‘legacy data’ and provides more guidance. As the UK data protection regime is currently aligned with Frozen GDPR, you can continue to read our guidance on the basis that UK GDPR applies. If the EU Commission gives the UK an ‘adequacy decision’ then these requirements will cease to apply.

Use this guidance document to understand whether you will be affected and to find out how you need to prepare. It also links to additional guidance about how to improve your data protection knowledge and compliance.

We will continue to update our guidance and develop other tools to assist you.

Check what you need to do:

Further reading

Guidance for large business and organisations and data protection specialists  – Read this if you are a large business or organisation or need more detail on data protection law and how it will change at the end of the transition period.

Other resources

Keep data flowing from Europe to the UK – interactive tool (external link)

Information rights at the end of the transition period Frequently Asked Questions

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