This GDPR hoo-ha has been bugging me

GDPR is here (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

GDPR is here (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto) - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In the rich tapestry of life, do we now have to unpick any personal details we hold about other people unless they confirm it is okay?

Yesterday, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force and it’s given me some grief, I can tell you. Thinking its remit included all banks of information held anywhere, however innocuous, I inadvertently set off an avalanche of “I’m in” emails between members of a neighbourhood group I subscribe to. It turns out I might have over-reacted... okay, I had over-reacted.

Not that GDPR isn’t a serious business. Organisations that hold databases of people’s personal material must be scrupulous about compliance. But, unless I’ve got it all wrong, as an individual I don’t need to destroy my address book or cross through people’s birthdays in my diary... although I will take care that such data is not compromised or sold on.

It was quite a different thing but my knee-jerk reaction brought back to mind the spectre of the Millennium Bug. At the time I was working in local government and, in the two or three years leading up to the dawn of the 21st century, the Bug became apocalyptic. It loomed over us all, a prophet of doom declaring that the end of all computers (and, thus, maybe also the world) was nigh.

The terrible scenario was that computers would crash, unable to assimilate the date when 31.12.1999 ticked over into 01.01.2000. As the press officer, I was on duty overnight on New Year’s Eve in case it all went pear-shaped. Consequently, I was among the handful of British champagne lovers who didn’t touch a drop as Tony Blair and The Queen joined in a slightly awkward chorus of Auld Lang Syne at midnight in the Millennium Dome. It really was the worst time to be stone-cold unbubbly.

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And what happened to all the computers across the world? Nothing. We didn’t even have to turn them off and turn them on again. Was this because we had been alert to the danger and managed to prevent it or was it because the Bug didn’t exist?

I guess we’ll never know.

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