In the digital age, compliance is a responsibility that cannot be avoided. With the introduction of new data laws, businesses of all sizes need to ensure that they are operating within the constraints of various sets of regulations. Data privacy laws have been enacted over the last three decades to protect the rights of individual consumers, and every global region is under the jurisdiction of at least one set of regulations.
Data laws generally give guidelines on the collection, storage and processing of personal data, and each set of regulations varies in terms of how strict or thorough they are. Companies that are engaging customers in one country may be subject to the laws of that country, even when the company is not based there.
What is the GDPR?
The General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) is the set of data privacy regulations that applies to countries within the European Union. It became enforceable in 2018, and also applies to the United Kingdom after leaving the EU. The laws give each member state the freedom to develop their own additional data regulations within that country.
The GDPR has the highest standard of data protection in the world, and it is the most far reaching and strictly enforced. The GDPR laws apply to all businesses with customers that are EU citizens.
The GDPR can levy fines that are as high as €20 million, or four percent of the organisation’s annual revenues. Fines can be incurred by failing to meet standards, report data breaches or reporting them too late. In 2019, British Airways was fined €204,600,000 after poor cybersecurity levels caused a data breach of 500,000 customer records.
How to stay compliant
With such severe penalties, any organisation that deals in personal data should be careful to meet GDPR compliance, regardless of where they are based. Here are some recommendations for staying on the right side of the GDPR:
Follow the GDPR concepts and articles
As information is processed in most stages of business operations, the GDPR impacts the majority of business processes, so familiarisation with the fundamentals should be a priority. Key terms used in the regulations are: data subject, data controller, personal data and data processor.
GDPR Article 5 relates to the principles of processing personal data, and article 6 relates to the lawful bases of this processing. Articles 12 to 22 relate to data subject rights, while Articles 25 and 32 relate to the measures organisations should have in place to protect personal data.
Hire a GDPR consultant
If your firm doesn’t have the necessary resources to devise effective GDPR strategies, expert consultation could be the best place to start. This can ensure that processes are altered accordingly and compliance is achieved.
It is also a good idea to designate a GDPR specialist within the organisation. This could be someone in the IT or HR department who will be responsible for making sure compliance is achieved.
Carry out a data Audit
GDPR requires businesses to carefully organise all of their personal data. This means knowing exactly where it is stored – on servers, applications, the cloud, mobile devices or emails. There must be a legal reason for storing and processing all personal data, and individuals have the right to access, delete and be informed of all uses of their data.
The next stage will be data mapping, in which the flow of data is mapped so that areas of potential GDPR compliance difficulty can be identified.
Give employee training
As the GDPR represents a considerable business change project, employees should understand the importance of data privacy. Staff also need to be trained in GDPR principles, and the new procedures that will be implemented as a result of the regulations.
Adjust your website
There are some changes to websites that may be necessary under the GDPR, most of which relate to forms and cookie consent.
As forms are used for gathering information, these will probably all need to be adjusted. There is no one way of doing this, and in many cases the service provider will have the best solution.
Where cookies or trackers are used, data subjects need to be informed. Consent for the cookies need to be obtained first, which can also be gained through a variety of methods.
The GDPR represents a considerable change for businesses that process customer data, and it is much more far reaching than just Europe. It may seem like a headache for small businesses and entrepreneurs, but it can also be the chance to develop more organised and efficient processes in a time when data is everything.