How to Unlock Successful, Scalable GDPR Compliance

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is omnipresent: It applies to every person or entity processing personal data in the European Union (EU), as well as all organizations that process the personal data of individuals located in the EU. The regulation seeks to increase individuals’ control over their personal data, including both publicly available and private information related to an identified or identifiable individual. This means information like social security and identification numbers, location data, and mental, economic, and cultural characteristics all fall within the remit of the regulation.

Despite GDPR’s reach and significance, many organizations struggle to meet all of its demands. This blog outlines the benefits of strong GDPR compliance and explains how to implement a lasting and scalable data protection strategy.

What’s at Stake?

Organizations have no choice but to take GDPR compliance seriously. The GDPR sets harsh sanctions for violations and requires national regulators to be supplied with adequate financial and human resources to perform enforcement and other related tasks. Breaches and noncompliance can result in high administrative fines that range up to $24 million or 4% of an organization’s global revenue from the previous fiscal year, whichever is greater. To put this into perspective, Google was fined $57 million in 2019; British Airways was fined $20 million in 2020; Uber was fined over $1 million in 2018; and many other banks, municipalities, hospitals, small business, and public and private companies have faced costly charges as a result of GDPR noncompliance.

Benefits of GDPR Compliance:

Although one can hope that Google, Uber, and British Airways have learned their lesson, compliance should not be a defensive or reactionary strategy for any organization. Strong GDPR compliance ushers in several business advantages.

In our current era of digital work, business, and learning, stronger data protection and data security are business necessities. Implementing processes, tools, and tactics for data protection compliance encourages and strengthens smart systems of data management, a general best practice for any organization dealing with customer or user information. Even better, smart data management systems are easier to adapt and change over time, making them highly scalable tools for long term compliance and data protection. Overall, prioritizing customer data privacy gives organizations a business differentiator, resulting in stronger customer loyalty and the potential to attract more customers with the promise of top-notch security. At the end of the day, maintaining strong compliance should not be a hard sell.

Implementing a Compliance Strategy:

Organizations that approach GDPR compliance in isolation struggle to avoid detrimental fines and reap benefits from data protection. When compliance occurs in silos, data science teams, eager for as much data as possible, may clash with risk-averse compliance teams and jeopardize each other’s success. However, if compliance is considered a collaborative and overarching project — and supplemented with mediators and thorough data knowledge — output quality improves and compliance becomes more scalable.

GDPR compliance requires following a data protection-by-design approach and maintaining a thorough understanding of data and data flows to ensure increased control and knowledge of data use and access. Data protection-by-design forces teams to prioritize data protection by embedding key data protection principles into business practices and processes starting from the design stage. Establishing effective safeguards is easier for compliance teams with carefully cataloged and managed. Knowing what data lives where helps teams do a better job of protecting it. But this is just the general overview – the individual work that goes into following data protection-by-design can be tedious and time consuming. This is where data governance comes into play.

Incorporating Data Governance:

Usually, two types of teams are involved in compliance efforts: the compliance team, responsible for creating an environment conducive to compliance with guidelines and policies, and the business sponsor team, responsible for signing off on data protection impact assessments. These teams are often supported by a data protection officer, who has expertise in the field. However, organizations can only claim compliance when a policy is implemented, which is one of the key responsibilities of data governance teams.

Data governance teams, when set up properly and given the right set of tools, act as mediators between data science, analytics, and compliance. Their job is to write and adopt standards and rules that are easily executable within data science environments and meaningful to compliance teams. In a sense, they help data science and analytics teams understand restrictions and compliance teams understand data scientists’ and analysts’ needs. Data governance ensures privacy standards are met, accelerates access to data, and streamlines the data monitoring process.

This may sound complex and confusing – but that’s only when teams run compliance manually. To alleviate and automate this workload, organizations often rely on enforcement tools that can help guarantee compliance standards are executed and data access and usage is audited. Immuta helps organizations automate data access governance to balance the conflicting demands of data science and compliance teams and accelerate legal and ethical access to data.

Request a demo of Immuta to see firsthand how seamless your GDPR process can be.

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