Life in the digital age revolves around collecting, tracking, and utilizing massive volumes of data daily. Consumers online sign up to the databases of multiple companies in the process of learning more about them or buying products from them. In most cases, businesses having access to such personally identifiable information (PII) is no cause for alarm—until there is a data breach and malicious hackers can now use an individual’s entire identity for their purposes. This has made it imminently essential for organizations, big or small, to guarantee the security of personally identifiable information (PII)—and this is where compliance standards like GDPR come in.
Data compliance is rapidly evolving, with innovative security standards being developed and launched every other year. However, few compliance frameworks are as stringent and well-established as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The European Union released the GDPR on May 25, 2018—and its primary purpose is to protect EU citizens from data fraud and modernize security legislation to manage the ever-increasing risk of cyber attacks. While the regulations stipulated under GDPR must be adhered to by companies in the EU and is mandatory, it is considered a global compliance standard, with several countries outside of its jurisdiction implementing its guidelines in their data privacy laws.
GDPR compliance is required of both cloud-hosted businesses (processors) and the data controllers they serve. The GDPR thereby impacts any business providing products and services to customers in the EU. This also applies to organizations that are not based in the EU. If you conduct business online and your market is distributed worldwide, you can never be positive that your customers are in the EU. Therefore, all internet companies must comply with GDPR guidelines as a precaution. Although no major modifications have been made to the standard since its launch, the priorities have changed over the years. Suppose you are a developing cloud-hosted business and have recently realized that you need to adhere to the laws of this particular compliance framework. In that case, we have nine checklist requirements you must fulfill for GDPR compliance in 2023.
Why Does My Business Need to Comply with GDPR?
But before we dive into the checklist, you may wonder how important it is to comply with GDPR laws.
For starters, to forge a relationship of trust with your stakeholders and consumers, you must adhere to the GDPR. It displays your dedication to safeguarding their data and upholding their right to privacy. You may improve your organization’s reputation as responsible and trustworthy by enforcing strong data protection policies. This will help your brand image and client loyalty.
Moreover, violations of the GDPR may have serious repercussions for your organization. Regulatory agencies can impose significant fines; the maximum amount is 4% of your global annual revenue or €20 million, whichever is larger. These fines may significantly harm your company’s finances and bankrupt you for good.
Additionally, adhering to the GDPR enables you to reduce the threats to data security. Businesses are required by the regulation to put the proper organizational and technical safeguards to prevent unauthorized access, loss, or disclosure of personal data. Doing this reduces the possibility of data breaches, which can harm your reputation, causing monetary losses, and legal penalties.
Overall, we recommend looking at GDPR compliance as not only required by the law but also a chance to show customers that you care about their privacy, earn their trust, and reduce the risks of data breaches and other fines for non-compliance.
Now, discuss the nine checklist requirements your company must fulfill to be GDPR compliant.
9 Checklist Requirements That Your Business Needs to be GDPR Compliant in 2023
- Raise Awareness Amongst Your Employees About GDPR Compliance
By incorporating every employee, you can tackle compliance requirements and the work involved in ensuring adherence holistically. To foster responsibility, you must enable them to increase their data security and protection knowledge.
You may start by identifying potential GDPR non-compliance hotspots, like the risk management policies for your business.
- Provide physical security for your workplace’s data infrastructure and the devices assigned to employees.
- Limit the number of exit points required to control employee access to company data.
- Make inquiries about the GDPR compliance of your external vendors and subcontractors. If they are not compliant with GDPR guidelines, so aren’t you. You may request them to make efforts to comply and explain to them its benefits or find new business partners.
To be fully compliant, you must have data processing agreements with third-party suppliers rather than just verbal or written confirmation.
- Maintain a Record of the Data Processing Workflows
You must know the data flows entering and leaving your cloud-hosted business in detail. Creating such records and accounting for every piece of data can help you comply with the GDPR’s accountability principle—which calls on companies to demonstrate their efforts to comply with the outlined data protection standards.
You must maintain the following information on record:
- What are the different departments in your company, and do they work in unison?
- Which departments deal with personal data, and in what ways?
- What kinds of information are recorded by such departments?
- Who is in charge of maintaining the data processing records in each department?
To keep it up to date with your data handling procedures, you should compile the information into a document that represents it more clearly and update it frequently.
You must correlate the information with the sources you derived from and inform any other companies you have shared your knowledge with if any data needs to be revised.
- Assign a Data Protection Officer (DPO)
You must choose and appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO) to ensure data protection regulations are followed.
The duties of a DPO in GDPR compliance include the following:
- Monitoring Compliance: The DPO is responsible for ensuring that the organization processes personal data in compliance with the GDPR and applicable data protection laws. This involves monitoring data protection activities, policies, and procedures within the organization.
- Providing Advice and Guidance: The DPO serves as a point of contact and provides advice and guidance to the organization and its employees on data protection matters. They offer expert advice on privacy impact assessments, data processing activities, consent mechanisms, and individuals’ rights under the GDPR.
- Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs): The DPO oversees and assists in conducting DPIAs and other assessments for high-risk processing activities. They help identify and minimize potential data protection risks and ensure appropriate measures are in place to protect users against liabilities.
- Internal Data Protection Policies: The DPO assists in developing and implementing internal data protection policies and procedures. They ensure that these policies align with the requirements of the GDPR and other relevant data protection laws.
- Cooperation with Authorities: The DPO is a liaison between the organization and data protection authorities (DPAs). They facilitate communication, cooperate with DPAs during investigations or audits, and serve as the primary contact point for DPAs regarding data protection matters.
- Communication and Training: The DPO is responsible for raising awareness and promoting a culture of data protection compliance within the organization. They communicate updates on data protection regulations, provide training to employees, and ensure that everyone understands their responsibilities regarding data protection.
You can appoint your DPO internally or externally. Still, in most cases, it is better to employ a third-party expert since internally-appointed DPOs typically need more specialized experience and need training.
- Revisit Current Privacy Policies
The GDPR requires consumers to receive more information about what companies plan to do with their data. In the past, you were required to disclose your identity and the intended use of the data.
- What methods are being used to collect personal data?
- Why is the company collecting personal information?
- What purposes does the company want to fulfill by collecting this information?
- How long will the company have access to the information?
- What are the rights of the company’s customers? (If they are unhappy with how their data is handled, they may complain to the ICO.)
- Report Any Data Breaches Immediately
As outlined in Article 33 of the GDPR framework, both processors and controllers need to report the occurrence of a data breach to a supervisory authority within 72 hours. It is mandatory and must be followed at all costs.
The following describes the hierarchical reporting structure:
Processors must report data breaches to controllers, who must report them to a supervisory body.
Monitoring and enforcing GDPR compliance is the responsibility of a supervisory authority, often known as a Data Protection Association (DPA). They also serve as the organization’s main contact for all GDPR questions.
Typically, supervisory authorities are found in the EU state where an organization is headquartered. The GDPR gives DPAs the authority to punish controllers and processors for non-compliance.
- Update Processes to Submit Subject Access Requests (SARs)
Review and improve your present procedures to manage subject access requests (SAR) effectively and within the specified timeframes.
You should create a strategy for responding to requests in light of any new amendments made to the regulations. You can start by keeping these points in mind:
- You won’t typically be able to charge someone for fulfilling a request.
- SARs are no longer subject to the 40-day time limit previously allowed and must be complied with within one month.
- You have the right to reject an excessive or unjustified request.
- If you decline a request, you must explain your decision to the person who made it and let them know they can file a complaint with the appropriate authority or take legal action. You have to do this within one month and without unnecessary delay.
- If your business is huge, think about whether it can manage a lot of SARs within the necessary timeframes. Can you provide more details, such as the duration of data retention and the correction of errors in your present systems?
Here are some realistic actions you can take to circumvent these considerations:
- To ensure that SARs are correctly addressed, create response letters that adhere to GDPR.
- Update SAR policies and processes to reflect expanded individual rights, new deadlines, and eliminating the cost of responding to requests.
- Create technology processes that swiftly and accurately process personal data in the required format.
- Create new policies to promptly fix data inaccuracies and a process to halt processing when necessary.
- Verify the Age of Every User Consenting to the Processing of Their Data
Under GDPR guidelines, individuals must be at least 16 years old to allow for processing of their personal data. The person with parental responsibility for the child must consent in order for the collection of personal data from those under the age of 18 to be legal.
You must implement an age verification mechanism to confirm the age of users before collecting any data if there is a likelihood that EU residents under 16 will interact with your website. A separate parental consent method is necessary if processing personal data from minor users is necessary.
- Conduct Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) Frequently
Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) are systematic processes aimed at identifying and minimizing data protection risks associated with the processing of personal data. They help organizations assess the impact of their activities on the privacy of their consumers and determine appropriate measures to address those risks. They are an essential requirement of GDPR compliance.
Here is an explanation of a DPIA process for GDPR compliance:
- Identify the need for a DPIA: Conduct a DPIA only when a processing activity is likely to result in a high risk to an individual user’s rights. This includes processing sensitive data on a large scale, systematic and extensive profiling, or processing that involves new technologies.
- Describe the Processing Activity: Clearly define the nature, scope, and purpose of the processing activity. Identify the types of personal data involved, the categories of individuals affected, and any third parties with whom the data is supposed to be shared.
- Assess necessities and proportionality: Evaluate whether the processing activity is necessary for its intended purpose and if the data collected is proportionate. Consider whether alternative methods or data minimization techniques can achieve the same goal.
- Identify and assess risks: Identify and assess the potential risks to the consumer’s privacy and rights associated with the processing activity. This includes risks of unauthorized access, data breaches, inaccurate data, loss of data, or any other potential harm.
- Identify measures to minimize risks: Determine and implement measures to mitigate identified risks, such as technical and organizational operations like encryption, access controls, regular data backups, or data anonymization.
- Consultation: If the DPIA indicates that the processing activity would result in high risk and insufficient measures to mitigate the risk, consult with relevant stakeholders, including data subjects and the supervisory authorities.
- Documentation: Document the DPIA process, including the findings, measures taken, and any decisions made based on the assessment. This documentation serves as evidence of compliance with GDPR requirements.
- Review and Update: Review and update the DPIA, particularly when significant changes to the processing activity or the risk landscape exist. This ensures that data protection measures remain effective and up to date.
Conducting a DPIA demonstrates a proactive approach to privacy and data protection. It helps organizations identify and address risks, ultimately enhancing compliance with GDPR requirements and safeguarding consumer rights and privacy.
- Adopt a Mindset That Prioritizes Data Privacy and Protection
Cloud-hosted companies must accept that their data is always poised for risks and take the necessary steps to implement and prioritize data privacy and protection.
Here are some best practices your organization may follow:
- Perform data encryption either via pseudonymization or anonymization.
- To lessen the amount of data that requires security, delete any data you are no longer using or are not required; ensure that outdated data is purged from your backups.
- Ensure your data centers are in nations like the US or Europe with strict data security laws.
- Implement IT security measures like TLS/SSL certificates and employee double authentication for your website or app.
- Secure the gadgets and devices that staff members bring to work and encrypt the passwords to your systems.
- Conduct regular vulnerability assessments on hardware, software, and networks to identify potential security gaps.
GDPR Compliance Readiness with Akitra!
Establishing trust is a crucial competitive differentiator when courting new SaaS businesses in today’s era of data breaches and compromised privacy. Customers and partners want assurances that their organizations are doing everything possible to prevent disclosing sensitive data and putting them at risk, and compliance certification fills that need.
Akitra offers an industry-leading, AI-powered Compliance Automation platform for SaaS companies. Using automated evidence collection and continuous monitoring, together with a full suite of customizable policies and controls as a compliance foundation, our compliance automation platform and service help our customers prepare readiness for the GDPR compliance standard, along with other security frameworks like SOC 1, SOC 2, HIPAA, ISO 27001, ISO 27701, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, PCI DSS, NIST CSF, NIST 800-53, NIST 800-171, FedRAMP, CMMC, and more such as CIS AWS Foundations Benchmark, etc. In addition, companies can use Akitra’s Risk Management product for overall risk management for your company, Trust Center, and AI-based Automated Questionnaire Response product to streamline and expedite security questionnaire response processes delivering huge cost savings. Our compliance and security experts will provide customized guidance to navigate the end-to-end compliance process confidently.
The benefits of our solution include enormous savings in time, human resources, and cost savings, including discounted audit fees with our audit firm partners. Customers achieve compliance certification fast and cost-effectively, stay continuously compliant as they grow, and can become certified under additional frameworks using a single compliance automation platform.
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