We all know email isn’t secure, but we press send anyway. That’s all about to change.

    When Henry Ford unveiled the Model T, it didn’t come with seat belts. No one called him out on it. There was also a time when smoking cigarettes was a lot cooler than it was suicidal, and when smoking on aeroplanes seemed quite reasonable. Not so long ago, cyclists never wore helmets. Nor did recreational skiers.

    The truth of it is, crazy behaviours look a lot clearer in the rear-view mirror than they do on the road ahead. When it comes to all things digital, we’re still in the casual, fast-and-loose stage.

    We all know email isn’t secure, but we press send anyway. We email contracts, fill-in forms, ping texts, and figuratively speaking, there’s no seat belt or safety helmet in sight.

    The encouraging news is we’re all becoming sensitive to the inherent dangers in how we communicate online, in what we send, and how we send it. And as we become more aware, and the cautionary tales grow, the way we behave will change.

    As the digital age matures, we’ll all grow wiser with it, and we’ll take fewer and fewer risks online. We’ll take fewer risks professionally, and we’ll take fewer risks personally. 2018 is going to be a big year for our dawning digital maturity.

    Where GDPR fits in

    The fast-approaching arrival of new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation on 25 May represents a watershed moment for changing online behaviour. The legislation is not a how-to guide. It’s not a best practice recommendation.

    GDPR is law and consequence. It’s a cause-and-effect behavioural trigger, where the consequence of not complying and falling foul will hit companies where it hurts the most. Imagine getting hit with a €20m (£18m) fine, or 4 per cent of your turnover.

    That leads to a series of very simple, bottom-line questions: Who in your business has GDPR covered? Is it really covered off?

    To think you are exempt, or that GDPR doesn’t apply to your company or colleagues or the way you work and communicate could be a naïve assumption of the costliest kind.

    If you’re emailing anything from or to a Gmail or Outlook account, that information is at risk. It’s not safe, it could be easily intercepted, and it’s not GDPR-compliant.

    If you’re emailing a client for information, say for a photo ID, copy of a utility bill or bank statement, then webmail (email outside corporate networks) is not secure and not GDPR-compliant.

    GDPR is not simply new laws relating to how companies store data and how they depersonalise that data to protect our identities and information. It is also about the flow of information. Crucially, GDPR-compliance relates to how companies and customers digitally communicate and exchange information.

    It also places responsibility squarely on the company, to address how all companies communicate. "Everyone uses email" will no longer be an acceptable mea culpa, should information leak or be hacked.

    In the modern digital, data-compliant world, every client-servicing business will need to be able to send and receive sensitive and personal information in a secure and GDPR-compliant manner.

    The welcome news for companies in all this is that GDPR-compliance is a lot easier and cheaper than most might fear – and it invites all companies to step-up and follow digital best practice in how they manage their online client and customer interactions.

    Being smarter and safer in how companies communicate online does not have to change what a company asks for. It simply changes how they ask for it. Specifically, it changes the channel; the medium used.

    Instead of using unencrypted webmail, companies will now have to use email software that is secure, encrypted, and compliant.

    GDPR is a wake-up call for the working world, and as wake-ups go, it’s not before time. Our online world needs to get a whole lot safer for everyone, and the commercial world has a responsibility to its customers and must demonstrate its digital duty of care.

    The good news is technological progress tends to create opportunities, present challenges, and then offer new ways of fixing those challenges.

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