As the EU referendum draws near, a core focus of the debate has been around the potential impact on UK businesses and Britain’s future as a financial centre within the EU. While many business leaders have focused on the financial incentive to stay in the Europe, business owners are concerned that European legislation has the potential to restrict or even damage the day-to-day operation of their organisations, impacting customer trust and ultimately damaging their bottom lines.
A large part of this discussion has been driven by a general distrust of EU legislation, with a particular focus on data privacy and the ability of businesses to keep their customer’s information safe. Following the recent string of government snooping scandals, many business owners have lost faith in the EU, believing that an independent Britain would ensure a higher quality of data privacy legislation – away from EU snooping and mandatory data “back doors”.
Amongst small business owners however, the reverse seems to be true. According to Artmotion’s research, less than 1 in 4 UK small business owners think Brexit will have a positive impact on their organisation’s data privacy. Similarly, 44% of SME owners believe that Brexit will have a negative impact on the security and privacy of their data.
While it is true that small businesses are less impacted by EU regulations than their international counterparts, this is not to say that they will be completely unaffected. With increasing numbers of SMEs storing their information on free cloud services such as Dropbox and Google Drive, ever more business owners have no idea where their data is actually stored. At the same time, customers across all sectors are growing more conscious of their right to privacy and the responsibility of businesses (of all sizes) to provide it.
In my view, both sides of the in-out coin offer data privacy risks for UK businesses. Staying within the EU opens businesses up to a whole host of government snooping laws, placing companies at risk of upsetting their customers or even opening themselves up to potential data theft and similar cybercrimes.
On the other hand however, leaving the EU will not necessarily fix this issue. Just because Britain will no longer be influenced by EU snooping or lax data privacy laws, does not mean that it won’t develop its own archaic alternatives. From the Snoopers’ Charter, to David Cameron’s call for a “ban on encryption”, poor data privacy is as much a UK problem as it is an issue for the EU.
It is for this reason that Artmotion stores all of its clients’ data in Switzerland – a neutral country which is both strict on data privacy, yet completely independent of the EU. The UK on the other hand offers a very different approach, one that is unlikely to change whether in – or out – of the European Union.
As a result, the so-called “Brexit” will never offer businesses, nor individual consumers the improvements in data privacy they demand. Instead they are faced with a simple binary choice – be snooped on from Brussels, or, be snooped on from London. The decision is yours.