GDPR, Big Data and the Construction industry

Thursday 21 December, 2017
Construction industry

Pamela McDade is an associate Director in our Glasgow office, and specialises in working with the construction industry. 

If you have not heard the acronym GDPR in last year, I do hope you enjoyed your sabbatical in a cave and rest assured that I am mildly jealous.

Now that you are back with us – you too can look forward to hearing it every single day of Q1, 2018.

Changes to General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) will come into effect on 25 May, which means it will dominate the construction news agenda as that deadline approaches.

For me, the most interesting parts are the questions it raises around how it affects industry. These are questions that don’t yet have answers.

Let us look at construction as an example. Construction and data are not natural bedfellows in the minds of those who operate outside of the sector. In fact, construction is probably the most interconnected data driven industry there is.

The introduction of new technologies like Building Information Modelling (BIM) – an intelligent 3D model based process that gives architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) professionals the tools to plan, design, construct and manage infrastructure projects – has meant that data has replaced concrete as the most important foundation on which any large scale project is built.

However, what does this have to do with GDPR?

Construction firms across the UK hold copious volumes of data stretching as far back as their very first project. The new GDPR legislation states that all businesses need to have their data infrastructure, cloud storage, policies and procedures in tip-top shape before 25 May 2018. 

Sensitive data constantly changes hands on construction projects – making it a prime target for security breaches. For the stalwart communications practitioner, my first thought is reputation. However, it is not just the negative headlines that will keep CEOs awake as the debate gathers momentum – but the threat of a fine of up to 4% of worldwide turnover or 20million Euros. That is big money to pay for neglect.

We are in an age where information has never mattered more. This time last year, the Big Data Analytics Market was worth an estimated $203billion and it is only going on an upward trajectory.

So why are industries like construction investing so much in data driven technology? The answer is simple…because they profit from it. Hard evidence sells. A construction partner can design, build, maintain, predict and horizon scan as part of a job. Who would not want to buy that peace of mind?

This presents a significant challenge for industry leaders, who must prioritise their data strategy over the coming months. Well-informed construction leaders will weather the GDPR juggernaut by:

  • Investing in legal experts who understand the GDPR landscape
  • Hiring data protection officers
  • Creating data registers
  • Classifying data
  • Establishing risk assessing processes
  • Reviewing consent
  • Creating procedures to detect, report and investigate personal data breaches
  • Evaluating

So here’s to 2018, when we are yet again debating in acronyms.