The project SMOOTH is ending on January 31, 2021. The project set out to develop tools that can help small businesses be compliant with GDPR and help them make the best of their data processing.
We have spoken with Mr David Caro, President of the European Small Business Alliance (ESBA). A partner in the SMOOTH consortium, he discussed with us why these tools were so much needed, how SMOOTH has concretely helped SMEs, and what he thinks the future following the project should look like.
David, thank you for joining us today. Let us start from the GDPR: How has the new General Data Protection regulation impacted small enterprises across Europe since 2018?
Small enterprises have limited resources. They do not necessarily have the capacity to investigate and learn more about how the legislation applies to their specific cases. For example, some might not be aware of the different applications based on the various data collected: the difference between if the business is selling directly to consumers and collecting their sensitive data or if it is mostly doing business with other companies.
That makes it very difficult for small businesses to understand which level of data protection they need to have and its impact on their business. ESBA did a lot of preliminary work both with companies and with the EU institutions during the drafting of the legislation as we had already foreseen the difficulties they would face.
That is why we joined the SMOOTH project as we felt small businesses needed as much help as possible with the implementation of the new rules.
What have been the positive and negative consequences of GDPR coming into action for small enterprises?
If we look at the positives first, it is always a good thing that companies are now more aware of the data they hold, of the responsibility they have in managing it and how to do so, which is where SMOOTH helps them. It is also strengthening their credibility with customers, be it they are consumers or other businesses. Having strong data protection measures in place provides a boost in reputation.
Looking at the negatives, it is the other side of the coin. There is a cost, both financial and in time, companies must dedicate to be compliant. This cost includes both the resources to research and understand the legislation, and applying measures to be compliant.
How has the SMOOTH project helped?
SMOOTH is critical in helping small businesses minimise these costs: it helps them get through the process in the most understandable way. They can use the pilot scheme to test what they have put in place and where they need to do more work. It gives them a clear understanding of what they need to do.
It is an excellent hand-holding exercise to help them see where they comply or don’t comply and take appropriate action.
What is SMOOTH’s most significant achievement from the perspective of small businesses?
I would say it is its digital dimension, which makes it accessible and convenient. The pilot indeed provides a beneficial exercise to see where you are and what you need to do, and having the GDPR Handbook accessible at any time from your phone through an app is remarkable.
A GDPR Handbook in your pocket at any time: for instance, a question comes to your mind, you can dial in straightway and look for an answer wherever and whenever you are. That is brilliant.
How would you like to see the future of the project?
I think it is so essential that there is a legacy of SMOOTH. The SMOOTH website and platform need to continue. The app needs to be updated as and when necessary. There will be charges, which should not be excessive, to access the pilot but small businesses need to understand that these charges are there for their benefits, to help such a useful tool stay sustainable and up-to-date.
The SMOOTH project’s whole idea was driven by the need to publicise GDPR to small businesses and make it as understandable as possible. The European Commission needs to keep pushing for this goal and ensure that any future legislation changes are kept as simple as possible not to create hindrance for small companies. 93% of the EU businesses are small, so the legislators really need to pay heed to that.
To hear more about the impact of SMOOTH, register for our Final Conference on January 21, 2021: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/8276523612739346702
You too can benefit from the SMOOTH Market Pilot! It is free and easy, and you’ll get a 12-month free subscription (once the tool is published)! Applications are open, so you can also apply to join this test: https://smooth.fundingbox.com/