Over the next few days there is a significant change that will impact many users of the internet along with people in receipt of printed correspondence. The GDPR or General Data Protection Regulation is something that most users of the internet are becoming extremely familiar with. For those of us who have lots of interests and follow lots of organisations the deluge of forms, emails and boxes to tick in the last few weeks has been huge. I recall a number of years ago as email correspondence increased due to the growth of its use, that from time to time the odd scam arose which was explained by friends as the risk of a threatening email that contained a virus and was circulating across the internet. Those who had been persuaded to do so would explain how the email risked infecting ones computer and not only should people delete the email if it arrived, but they should also let all of their friends know about it in case it arrived in their in-boxes. In many of these cases the threat was not a virus that could take out individual computers, but it was an attempt to create pressure in the internet itself by raising the number of emails circulating disproportionately in the hope of taking out some of the infrastructure. One could imagine that the internet demand created by GDPR legislation to ensure that by this Friday the 25th May that anyone who is linked to any organisation has received an appropriate email and has responded to it to ensure that they continue to be eligible to receive emails, will have had far more impact on the internet than any of the scams I received in the past. Along with the massive number of emails circulating which have started to feel like a major spam campaign, anyone connected with an organisation that stores names and sends out emails will have been struggling to work out how to respond to the legislation in a meaningful way. The most simple approach I have seen which has been adopted by agencies such as West Sussex has been to send out an email to the people on their database stating that if they are happy to continue to receive emails they don’t need to do anything, but if they no longer want to receive emails they should click on a specific link. Then there are the emails which include links to small-ish questionnaires inviting people to confirm their email address and possibly a mobile phone number and then asking them to tick several boxes regarding what sort of correspondence they are happy to receive. Finally there are those organisations that have gone to much greater lengths and have insisted that followers fill in lengthy details and also ensuring they read long explanations, and then tick a box to say they have read the document. As someone who is a Trustee of a charity, we were originally offered a 25 page policy document by another charity that we are linked to, whereas I have seen two page policies established by other charities. All of the work associated with the GDPR issue reminds me of the Millennium Bug which resulted in thousands of person hours being spent on something which in the end had no noticeable impact on society, apart from the hours of preparation that went on in advance assuming that things would break. It seems that when legislation such as GDPR is created, it is not unreasonable for those who create it, to set out some parameters regarding what is the lowest level of work needed by small businesses and charities, long before the deadline set out by the legislation.
At a much more local level in terms of change that may be about to impact Brighton and Hove, I am delighted that the new Mayor of our city is Dee Simpson who for many years has been one of the most community focused and engaged Councillors on the Council. Being a Mayor must be a huge responsibility and I know from speaking to some previous Mayors, that the time they need to commit to the role is enormous. In recent years the impact of Mayor’s such as Pete West have brought a radical change to the role. I hope that Dee continues with this reforming approach as well as enjoying the pomp and circumstance that goes with some aspects of the post. In preparation for writing this blog I went onto the City Council website to look up the list of previous Mayors. The document on their website lists Mayors as far back as 1854, but stops at 2008. Perhaps someone in the Council can update the list and bring it forward a decade in one small action!