Half of UK companies are oblivious to new EU data protection laws, according to a new report by Trend Micro.

The survey, which involved 850 senior IT decision makers throughout Europe, found that the UK was significantly behind many of those on the continent, with only 50 per cent aware of the EU Data Protection Regulation, compared to 87 per cent in Germany.

There were 250 UK respondents in the research, and only 10 per cent of these felt they fully understood what was needed to make their organisations fully compliant with the new EU rules.

85 per cent believe their businesses will face huge challenges to meet compliance, while 25 per cent don't even believe those goals can be achieved.

Privacy enforced

The EU Data Protection Regulation is a major law reform that will see online privacy rights increased, with the potential for hefty fines of as much as five per cent of global revenue if a company fails to meet the tough new standards.

Vinod Bange of law firm Taylor Wessing argues that businesses won't be able to look the other way with the new laws, but he also sees business opportunities for companies who become compliant before the regulations come into effect.

"With ratification expected in 2014, it's alarming to see how little is known about such key privacy regulations. This effects every organisation, regardless of size. If a company processes data then it needs to be aware," said Rik Ferguson, VP of Security Research at Trend Micro.

"As companies look to gain maximum value from a new generation of big data projects, data privacy should be a board level discussion. This is not just an IT issue, duty to comply falls to everyone from the receptionist right up to the CEO."