Playing catch-up with the General Data Protection Regulation

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Finally, after two years of waiting, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation has officially taken effect.

Beyond just Europe, the regulation is expected to reshape how global organizations manage, share and protect their users’ personal data. Many organizations across the world have scrambled to be ready. But based on public statements from companies and client feedback, it is clear that many companies are still not in compliance.

Still, with all the high-profile data breaches and misuses we have witnessed in the last few months; i.e. Equifax and Cambridge Analytica, global businesses are taking GDPR seriously.

Not knowing the extent and depth to which the EU will enforce GDPR, the potential fines of up to 4 percent of global annual revenue or 20 million euros should still inspire an immediate need to review and subsequently adjust data privacy and protection programs. As a result, companies will have to restructure how they handle data, and, if they do not have a cyber infrastructure that is sound, they will have to rebuild from the ground up including their applications.

Even if the GDPR does not directly affect your organization, the requirements and guidelines contained within can help any organization obtain resilient data privacy and protection.

Who is in compliance?

The answer differs based on several factors. Over the past two weeks there have been at least four distinct studies with very different results.

On May 21, a new GDPR study carried out by the Ponemon Institute found that 40 percent of the companies surveyed would not be ready.

A Crowd Research Partners report drawn from the Information Security Community on LinkedIn, says that only 40 percent of the organizations surveyed would be fully compliant by today’s GDPR deadline.

A World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) survey released on May 23 stated that 95 percent of respondents planned to be fully compliant by the deadline, of which 74 percent said they believe their company would likely be fully compliant by the deadline, with 42 percent of those respondents saying they would definitely be.

A Netsparker GDPR survey of 300 senior executives found that only 2 percent of those surveyed said that they do not expect to be compliant by today’s deadline.

The various survey results indicate that there is still much confusion around GDPR.

For those organizations that are playing catch-up with GDPR, the first step is to realize that they will need their customers permission to collect and process their data. This includes internal tools used to share or analyze the data internally, exclusive of tools that encrypt the data end to end.

The steps should be prioritized by risk and execution complexity within your organization.

  1. Revise your procedures that define how you are going to handle an individual's request for erasing or rectifying inaccurate data. Executing this process will take the longest time so it should be prioritized.
  2. Review your contracts with third parties. Their compliance is your risk exposure so you need to make sure you ensure their compliance.
  3. Review and understand how you process your customer data mapping the data processing activities across the business processes. This activity, previously put on the back burner, needs to be moved up. It is a compliance activity not a systems analysis activity. It simply isn’t an option anymore.
  4. Revise your data security practices and systems to be in compliance with GDPR. The core initiative for meeting EU GDPR compliance is to protect user data. If you have not already, you need to take inventory of your data and map your data to protected EU GDPR categories. Most importantly once you have the knowledge of where your data is and how is it being used a prudent step would be to also implement a data leak prevention tool and policy to enforce GDPR systematically by late spring of 2018.

It is equally important to remember why GDPR was created in the first place.
The main goal of the regulation was to protect the misuse of personal data by organizations for intrusive marketing and influencing activities. Moving forward, GDPR compliance will emphasize transparency of the data. The retention and processing of our data has to be with our permission and easily auditable.

Complying with GDPR will be a significant challenge to all businesses. However, knowing what you have to do to be in compliance is the first and most important step. This will help you quickly get to a point where you demonstrate to the regulators that you can both identify and audit your data so that you can create a practical roadmap to GDPR compliance.

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