What would a Brexit mean for the internet?

Posted on June 3, 2016

 

Lovers of tedious, repetitive debate and scaremongering will be pleased to hear that it’s still nearly three weeks until Brits vote on whether they would like their country to be a member of the European Union or not on June 23rd.

Politicians on both sides of the discussion have been trying to bring us round to their way of thinking with arguments about immigration, the cost of membership, trading, human rights and even cheap holidays, but comparatively little has been said about a medium we all use and rely upon every day – the internet.

Of course, as is the case with most matters, we can’t say for sure what effect leaving or remaining in the EU will have on our day-to-day Googling and social media use, but if you have a cyber-minded approach to voting, here are some questions you could ask yourself:

Will it affect my online privacy responsibilities?

Many organisations will have noticed that the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) directive was agreed last December, formalised in April, and will be in practice in 2018. More thorough and up-to-date than the UK’s Data Protection Act 1998, British companies with a good mind not to pay any attention to the GDPR could just bin the document in the event of a Brexit, couldn’t they?

Not according to ComputerWeekly.com, which says that the document – which includes regulations on data erasure and gaining explicit consent for any data you hold – will still apply for countries trading with the EU. So, Brexit or not, it will be our internet data bible in two years’ time.

What will it mean for search?

With the new EU document coming up with a definition for a search engine that actually doesn’t meet what Google, Bing or any other internet tool actually does, some may be concerned at what they see as the EU’s warped view of the web. Are these fears justified though or are we being pedantic? Perhaps the latter, but the potential loophole is there for search engines to simply not do as they are told.

Could the cookie crumble?

The warnings about cookies that we seem to get from every site we visit are thanks to a 2012 EU directive, so could an ‘Out’ vote mean we just go back to the days of visiting sites without clicking ‘I Agree’?

The Telegraph investigated this in March and concluded that, for largely the same reasons we went through with the GDPR, the answer is probably no.

It’s unlikely we’ll hear too much about the web from either the Leave or Remain camps between now and June 23rd, but in a decision as big as this, it’s important to consider the knock-on effects on our everyday life. Generally though, as far as the internet is concerned, it seems that any impact of a Brexit vote would be minimal.

John Murray

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.

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