In 2018, the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force. The GDPR was a response to massive worldwide data breaches that were undermining the trust and security of private citizens whose personal information was at stake. As this data was exposed by both hackers and, in some cases, simply through poor security measures, governments of the EU felt it was time to create a strong piece of governance to bolster protection.
While the initial rollout of GDPR held some uncertainty and unknowns for organisations subject to its guidelines, there is now a much clearer picture of how its standards apply. The punishments for being caught out of compliance can be severe: Violators of the GDPR may be fined up to €20 million or up to 4 percent of the annual worldwide turnover of the preceding financial year in case of an enterprise, whichever is greater (European Commission, 2020, GDPR.eu, 2020).
At CRI Group, our integrity due diligence experts are trained at helping organisatons achieve and maintain compliance with GDPR. Our leading risk management and compliance agents provide the following top 10 GDPR best practices for any business or entity that deals with collecting, storing or using personal information:
- Employ a Data Protection Officer (DPO). It is a GDPR requirement that entities who carry out regular and systematic monitoring of individuals on a large scale, or large-scale processing of certain special categories of data, have an assigned DPO. It is also recommended, however, for all other entities to help ensure data security. While the GDPR does not specifically list the necessary training or qualifications of a DPO, the regulation does require the DPO to have “expert knowledge of data protection law and practices” (Digital Guardian, 2019). Implement thorough background screening processes and make sure they are trained and qualified to be your DPO.
- Train your employees. Ensure that all personnel are aware of the GDPR and your organisation’s commitment to compliance. Make sure that all leaders, and especially key personnel charged with collecting, handling or storing data, understand their responsibilities under GDPR. Make date protection training a regular part of your employee curriculum.
- Confirm the legality of your data collection. GDPR requires that you have a legal basis to collect personal data. For most businesses, the following are the most likely to be applicable:
- The information is necessary to perform a contract between the organisation and the individual;
- You have a legal obligation to process the data (such as a court order);
- The organisation has a legitimate interest in collecting and processing the data – in other words, there needs to be a relationship and business reason to collect the date (it cannot be random);
- The individual has provided direct consent to the processing of the data.
- Maintain thorough records. For larger organisations (more than 250 employees), GDPR requires that records of data collection and processing be maintained. Again, this is also a best practice for smaller organisations, as well. It can help establish that the organisation is dutifully complying with the data protection principles in GDPR. Take inventory and make a record of the data you have collected and are storing to date. Create a detailed matrix to understand what types of data you are holding, where/how it as collected, how and where it is held, and whether it is still needed. Based on this information, you can also develop a data-retention policy to govern how long personal data is kept and stored. Keeping data on file longer than needed is a liability, and serves no business purpose.
- Establish consent policies for data. For some of your records, consent is your lawful basis for holding it. Under GDPR, it is no longer acceptable to assume consent in your collected data, or treat silence as consent. Create clear and unambiguous consent forms for your data collection that demonstrate adherence to GDPR principles. And remember, under GDPR, you must make it a simple process for an individual to withdraw their consent at any time.
- Perform due diligence on third-parties. Under GDPR, your organisation is responsible if third-party partners collect, store or manage data for your organisation. You must ensure their compliance with GDPR as if it is your own, since they are responsible for your data. This is the time to update your contracts with them to include compliance measures, as needed. It is also important that you review their control systems and their data handling processes. They must be comprehensive and meet all of the GDPR requirements to keep data secure. CRI Group’s third-party risk management experts can help you conduct effective reviews of your partners and their processes.
- Be responsive. Under GDPR, your organisation must respond to requests from individuals whose data you have collected and/or are storing. These requests are spelled out as individuals rights in regards to their personal data and they include the following:
- Right to be informed about what data is collected and why;
- Right of access to data that has been collected;
- Right to rectification/correction of inaccurate data;
- Right to erasure of data (“right to be forgotten”);
- Right to restrict processing of personal data;
- Right to data portability;
- Right to object to use of data; and
- Right not to be subject to automated decision making, including profiling.
Have a process in place to timely respond to requests and provide data when requested in order to stay in compliance.
- Have written policies in place. Develop your internal policies in regards to GDPR and how you protect personal data, and communicate them across your organisation. Take special note to spell out policies on data retention, cross-border processing of date, and how you collect and handle data for persons under the age of 16, as GDPR has special requirements in regards to children’s data.
- Conduct risk assessments. GDPR requires Data Protection Impact Assessments in certain cases. These assessments measure your organisation’s ability to protect personal data, and risks associated with that protection. If your data processing is considered high-risk, uses new technology, or deals in large-scale processing of data in certain categories, the assessments are required – but in for any organisation, they are recommended. Data protection experts at an outside firm like CRI Group can help you prepare robust risk assessments and follow-up plans to address their results.
- Be prepared for a breach. A worst-case scenario in data security is a breach that exposes personal information. Under the steps above, your organisation should be well-positioned to prevent or limit any breach to your data security. However, you should always have a contingency plan in place to immediately respond to a breach should it occur. Understand that GDPR requires that the applicable EU data protection supervisory authority be notified within 72 hours of a breach. Gone are the days where a company can announce it weeks or even months after the fact. Be ready to notify the affected individuals that their data has been compromised, so that they can take the appropriate steps to respond.
Organisations don’t like to think about the impact of a data breach – but major cases have pushed governments to act in the public’s interest. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in the EU, where the GDPR is now the governing policy for organisations that deal with individuals’ personal data. By being proactive with the steps above, your organisation can be better prepared and maintain compliance with the GDPR. Most importantly, you will have the confidence and trust of your consumers through effective best practices in handling and protecting their data. CRI Group’s experts are here to help. Contact us today so that we can walk you through the steps of GDPR compliance.