Image from the NME Cover 12th August 1995
Evolution is defined as “a gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form”. In nature it is the process by which an organism becomes better adapted to its environment and is driven by what Darwin identified as natural selection. However, evolution is also defined as a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development, as in social or economic structures or institutions.
So why is 1995 so significant in our evolution?
For those of you old enough to remember, here are some highlights of 1995:
1995 was the year that many regard as the peak of Britpop and the battle between Blur and Oasis. Some notable UK chart toppers that year were ‘Back for Good’ by Take That and ‘Country House’ by Blur. And less notably ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ by Rednex. Also on the back of their acting success in the TV show Soldier Soldier, Robson and Jerome had two number one hits with ‘Unchained Melody’ and ‘I Believe’.
1995 was the year of the trial of the former American football star turned actor OJ Simpson and it was also the year that Nick Leeson caused the collapse of Barings Bank.
From a technology perspective, 1995 was widely regarded as the year the Internet entered public consciousness and new browsers made the World-Wide Web accessible to the public. Ebay was launched and the DVD media format was announced. And the last notable innovation will sound obvious, it was the year Microsoft launched Windows 95.
1995 was also the year the foundation of European Privacy Law was published: the European Union Privacy Directive 95/46/EC. This Directive forms the basis of the UK Data Protection Act and forms the basis for our privacy rights as individuals. However, it came into force before the launch of Google, Facebook, the iPhone, Big Data and the Internet of Things.
We have experienced the rapid development and progressive change in technology over the last 20 years whilst the regulation relating to data privacy rights of individuals has remained largely unchanged. Evolution is supposed to be a gradual process and, although it has been true for data privacy regulation, it has not been the case with technology.
Last year the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – which had been in development for several years with the first draft released in 2012, following several iterations – finally entered European member law on the 24th of May 2016.
New regulations like the GDPR need to be introduced to ensure corporate operational practices evolve to comply with the regulation. Thankfully companies have been given a two-year period to align their operational practices with the requirements of the GDPR.
We as consumers will now be able to sleep easier knowing that data privacy regulation is more aligned to the technology developments of the last 20 years. Regulation now favours the consumer, with the burden of proof of compliance to the GDPR placed on companies providing services to them.
Critics of the GDPR believe the new regulation could now slow the pace of technological and scientific development. The reality is that companies, by complying with the regulation, will evolve and improve their working practices and processes. Companies are creating the foundations to develop new services and potentially open new profitable opportunities to capitalise on.
What the GDPR has highlighted is that there is a need for regulations to undergo the same review life cycles that our organisational strategies, policies, processes and procedures undergo to support our business. Only in this way can regulation evolve in line with technological advancements.
So, could evolution come to end?
Some scientists believe evolution will only end when it is no longer possible for the earth to support life – a very dark outlook indeed.
But the truth is we are all still evolving to new situations and challenges, new species are being discovered nearly every week. So, we can relax knowing we are a very long way off evolution coming to an end.