Big technology, telecoms and banking firms that handle data for millions of customers fear Brexit will create a ‘digital wall’, cutting off the UK from the EU.
Vodafone, Twitter, Snapchat and Dropbox are among the companies that are fretting about major disruption if the EU refuses to recognise the UK’s data regime.
If the EU declines to do so, firms may no longer be able to store information about EU citizens in the UK, potentially forcing them to move data centres and large numbers of jobs to the Continent.
Vittorio Colao, the boss of British telecoms giant Vodafone: ‘We need to get equivalency with the EU
David Richards, the British boss of data firm WANdisco, described data as a ‘potentially huge problem’ and an ‘iceberg-type issue’ that has not been fully recognised.
WANdisco works with businesses across several sectors that are worried about data protection and are having to start preparing for Brexit-related problems.
Banks, for instance, may lose the ability to store data on EU customers outside the region, and so are preparing to move it away from the UK.
To avoid this, Richards said, the UK needs urgently to secure a legal agreement under which its data protection rules are recognised by the EU.
‘It needs to get resolved now,’ he said. ‘I think this is the most significant Brexit problem.’
Vittorio Colao, the boss of British telecoms giant Vodafone, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘We need to get equivalency with the EU, so data can sit in either place, otherwise we are creating a digital wall. That is not good for any company or entrepreneur, given the ambition of the UK to become a digital hub.’
In a recent regulatory note to investors in the US, social media firm Twitter noted that the UK’s new Data Protection Bill ‘substantially implements’ EU standards – under newly-introduced General Data Protection Regulation.
However, Twitter added that it was not clear whether the EU would accept this, meaning ‘requirements for data transfers between the United Kingdom and the EU are unclear’.
In a separate filing, Snap – the owner of Snapchat, a photo messaging phone app popular among teenagers – said it remained unclear ‘how data transfers to and from the United Kingdom will be regulated’.
Online photo-sharing company Dropbox and News Corp, the international media company headed by Rupert Murdoch, have expressed similar concerns about the transfer and protection of data.