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When the internet and technology are the lifeblood of modern business operations, it is no wonder that data privacy has taken the center stage. According to a Pew Research Center report, 79% of consumers have raised concerns about personal data that organizations collect. These concerns have as much to do with discrimination and law as they do with ethics and policy. Across the EU, UK, USA, China, Singapore, and virtually every other location on the planet, the regulatory landscape for data privacy has changed and continues to evolve. In the EU, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR enforceable in 2018) and its policies have effected change worldwide.
EU regulators and legislators indicated that businesses’ almost laissez-faire approach toward data protection compliance had gone on for far too long and that the GDPR would rectify this. And it did. GDPR proves a robust framework for keeping personal data secure. Today, the cost of data privacy infractions can amount to a hefty penalty of up to €20 million or 4% of the company’s annual global turnover. Moreover, on account of the GDPR’s broad territorial scope, it is regarded as a standard globally, and businesses invest heavily to keep up with the compliance regulations.
However, despite efforts, a report published by DLA Piper states that data breach fines and notifications between January 2020 and 2021 increased by 40% and 19%, respectively. Naturally, this double-digit growth isn’t conducive to healthy business operation and implores the question, ‘What can or should companies do to mitigate losses due to data privacy non-compliance?’ For insight on the matter, read on to know how companies can prepare for the inevitable progression of GDPR or any other such data privacy laws and regulatory guidelines.
The first approach companies could take is to hire a data protection officer or DPO. This is a relatively new role for most institutions and should exist, especially considering how quickly regulatory reforms can occur. A data protection officer is a professional tasked with doing all the heavy lifting in ensuring that the organization remains compliant with the GDPR. As a matter of fact, it is a mandatory requirement by the GDPR that a company must hire a DPO if it handles personal data of EU residents.
Ideally, companies should look inwards at personnel working within the IT or legal departments for the role of DPO. A DPO’s responsibilities often overlap with those of a Chief Data Officer and these professionals serve as viable candidates for the job. However, to be effective, it is important that the DPO receives formal training on GDPR. Organizations such as the Association of Data Protection Officers and the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) offer courses on data privacy and security. There is a talk that the GDPR will likely create entities that offer certification for such courses in the near future.
In a bid to save on costs, it is quite common for companies to take legacy systems forward with every passing year. While this may have worked a decade ago, it definitely won’t in today’s environment. Legacy systems used to track, enter, and monitor data make staying compliant difficult, especially when dealing with a breach. The solution here is to evaluate the efficacy of existing data management tools with today’s standards.
A good starting point would be to get rid of systems that don’t easily integrate with workflow automation. Manual inputs and processes increase the risk of noncompliance, and new-age tools can help address this problem. One smart and effective solution is the VComply GRC software suite. VComply allows you to establish a centralized data model, where a single repository of all critical documents may be maintained. This enables easy management, tracking and can aid quick breach redressal when dealing with risk data.
An effective way to stay ahead of GDPR changes is ensure that the current documentation is maintained with maximum accuracy and as per requirements. Under the GDPR, all data-intensive projects must have privacy impact assessment (PIA) documentation, which must be accessible to everyone involved in a project. This is non-optional as it is a process that accounts for all the privacy risk present with any data a company collects from consumers.
Ideally, a comprehensive PIA should be able to document all key data-related information. Here is a table that highlights the main verticals and the type of data that should be documented.
It comes as no surprise that data security is a key part of the GDPR compliance journey. To stay ahead of the ever-changing environment, companies should design all security measures with privacy as a priority. Common measures include creating workflows that govern data access, both on-site and remotely. As per the GDPR, an external data breach can even be a situation where an unvetted temporary employee is granted full access to data through a generic login.
Such cases of unsecured data access can be solved by implementing clearly defined user access controls. Besides these, security measures extend to monitoring and logging. This is another branch of data collection, albeit internal, and should be handled in keeping with the GDPR.
Before the GDPR took hold, data privacy may have not been a key part of the risk assessment and management strategy. This needs to change in order to adapt to the modern-day requirements and data privacy should be given its fair share of importance within these protocols. This includes designing specific risk assessment models, having controls to mitigate risks, and understand the impact of these risks and the extent of their exposure.
Considering that the GDPR guidelines will continue to evolve with every passing year, it is safe to assume that companies will soon have to learn to adapt on the fly. These 5 measures should help prepare for many reforms, especially if the company has the right tools at its disposal. The VComply GRC software suite offers such a solution to organizations to map their data and efficiently implement controls to track and manage compliance with GDPR regulations.
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