'Awareness isn't great': ICO plans campaign to educate public about GDPR rights

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is planning a series of campaigns over the coming three years to educate the public about its rights under the new general data protection regulation (GDPR), which comes into force this Friday.

'Your Data Matters' campaign: Designed to educate the public about its rights under GDPR
'Your Data Matters' campaign: Designed to educate the public about its rights under GDPR
GDPR is a beefed-up version of existing data protection legislation that will give people more rights over their personal data and companies and organisations more responsibilities in how they collect and store it.

The ICO is the regulator in charge of enforcing the provisions of the legislation but, in an interview with PRWeek, it said the organisation had a challenge on its hands in communicating GDPR to the public.

Robert Parker, head of corporate affairs at the ICO, said: "For the next two or three years our job, in partnership with others, is to raise the awareness and education levels of the public as to what their data rights are."

But Parker and his team face an uphill struggle to communicate the eight rights the public has under GDPR legislation, which include the right of access, the right to rectification and the right of erasure.

The ICO has conducted tracking surveys on data rights since 1985 and even the most well-known right – the subject access request – only attracts 20 per cent awareness among the public.

New public-facing campaigns

To counter this awareness deficit, the ICO comms team plans to launch the first strand of its new ‘Your Data Matters’ campaign around the introduction of GDPR.

In addition to educating the public about its rights, a key message of the campaign will be to explain the ICO’s role as the organisation people can turn to if they think their data rights have been breached.

Different strands of the campaign will be rolled out over the next two or three years.

Parker said: "To build trust and confidence it’s important people understand they have got rights and that they have the ICO to enforce them."

But the campaign’s objectives will have to be achieved using limited resources, said Parker. "We haven’t got a massive budget," he admitted.

Educating small businesses

In addition to the ICO’s work educating the public, Parker explained the comms work the organisation had done with small businesses in the run-up to the introduction of GDPR.

He said: "The ICO has provided the resources and our job in comms has been trying to communicate those resources and we’ve done it without massive budgets."

Some of the methods the ICO comms team has used include a partnership with the Federation of Small Businesses to promote its tailored guide to implementing GDPR and using social media channels to amplify its messages.

The ICO has also taken part in conferences and exhibitions to help communicate its message.

Parker said: "One strong way in which we’ve got the message out there is speaking opportunities. The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, does around four speeches or public appearances each month, and her speeches get picked up by the media."

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