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Jobs being lost over Brexit data uncertainty

David Richards, chief executive and chairman of WANdisco, at the firm's headquarters.
David Richards, chief executive and chairman of WANdisco, at the firm's headquarters.
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Uncertainty over the UK’s data regime post-Brexit is already seeing jobs move to mainland Europe and could hurt Britain’s position as a technology hub, the boss of live data company WANdisco has warned.

David Richards, CEO and chairman of Sheffield-based WANDisco, says the Government needs to send out a clear message that, whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, there will be data equivalency with the European Union.

Mr Richards told The Yorkshire Post that many financial services firm and retailers with large European customer bases had already begun moving their data away from Britain.

He said: “We’re seeing a lot of banks now looking to move that data offshore and into other areas of mainland Europe. There’s a concept called data gravity. When the data goes then the applications follow.”

The people who write and monitor those applications will have to move, the boss of the London Stock Exchange listed firm added.

“If the data moves to Europe then basically the jobs move to Europe,” Mr Richards said. “That’s a pretty serious problem and I don’t think it’s something that is particularly well understood.”

Brexit is on a collision course with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was implemented earlier this year by EU member states, he said.

The British Government has committed to introduce a data protection bill to try and ensure alignment with the EU.

However, Mr Richards doesn’t think that’s enough and points to the issues faced by the US on holding EU customer data, despite its safe harbor rules.Mr Richards said that he doesn’t know whether the Government is taking the issue seriously enough and he believes its not been discussed enough.

He said: “It’s a complicated issue. That’s where the problem is. It’s not about are my bananas straight or not. This is a pretty serious problem but it’s also complicated and hard to understand.”

WANdisco, which has 50 staff in Sheffield, believes that the upheaval in data could present it with an opportunity, given its expertise in data flow through cloud computing.

“It’s an opportunity for WANDisco because companies have to think about data that lives in different geographic locations,” Mr Richard said.

Several years ago, Mr Richards warned over how social media giants such as Facebook were using people’s personal data.

“I’ve known for a long time what they were doing and how they were using the data because I knew the first data scientists,” Mr Richards said.

The US tech giant came under fire for running AB tests, experiments to manipulate the mood of their users. Mr Richards added: “We still don’t have regulation in order to deal with this.”

The CEO and chairman of WANdisco thinks the impact of social media on the health of users and their psychological well-being should be treated with the same seriousness as the impact of cigarettes on smokers.

“Yes, this is not causing cancers but I certainly believe that the impact on young people psychologically is still unknown and is a really serious problem,” David Richards said.

He added that the gambling industry in the UK “frightens” him.

“You could use data in those scenarios to fuel gambling addictions,” Mr Richards said.