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6 min read

How to become GDPR Compliant: Essential Steps for Your Business

How to Comply with GDPR
6 min read

How to become GDPR Compliant: Essential Steps for Your Business

To become GDPR compliant, it is essential to appreciate the core principles and requirements that underpin the regulation. This includes knowing the legal basis for processing personal data, upholding the rights of data subjects, implementing robust data protection measures, and maintaining a transparent data processing framework. Accountability and governance play a pivotal role in compliance, setting expectations for organizations to follow the regulations and proactively demonstrate compliance.

Key Takeaways

  • GDPR compliance requires a deep understanding of data privacy principles and legal requirements.
  • Protecting data subject rights is integral to aligning with GDPR standards.
  • Implementing accountability measures is essential for verifying and demonstrating compliance.

Understanding GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provides robust data processing and protection obligations. Recognizing these mandates is pivotal for compliance.

Key Principles of GDPR

Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency: Processing must be lawful, fair, and transparent to the data subject.
Purpose limitation: Data collected for specified, explicit, and legitimate purposes cannot be used in a contrary manner without further consent.
Data minimization: Collect only the necessary data for the intended purpose.
Accuracy: Personal data must be accurate and kept up-to-date.
Storage limitation: Data should be retained only as long as necessary for the stated purpose.
Integrity and confidentiality: Ensuring security and privacy through appropriate technical and organizational measures is essential.
Accountability: Data controllers must be accountable for compliant data processing.

Key GDPR Compliance Requirements
10 Key GDPR Requirements

Personal Data Definition

Personal data is any information that relates to an identified or identifiable living individual. Examples include names, identification numbers, location data, and factors specific to that person’s physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural, or social identity.

Roles Under GDPR

Three primary roles are designated:

  • Data subject: An individual whose personal data is processed.
  • Data controller: Determines the purposes and means of processing personal data.
  • Data processor: Processes personal data on behalf of the controller.

Understanding and adherence to these roles and principles are critical to maintaining GDPR compliance.

Legal Foundation for Data Processing

In GDPR compliance, legal bases for processing personal data are critical. Without a valid legal basis, any data processing is unlawful.

Consent Requirement

Under GDPR, consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous. A data subject’s consent requires explicit affirmative action. Online forms related to data loss prevention often include checkboxes that must not be pre-ticked.

Legitimate Interests

The data processor may process personal information if they have a legitimate interest that does not infringe on the data subject’s rights and freedoms. This could include scenarios relevant to insider risk management, ensuring the security and confidentiality of the data.

Compliance with Legal Obligations

Processing may be necessary for compliance with a legal obligation. This means an organization must process the data if required by EU or member state law. For instance, adhering to tax laws or cooperating with compliance enforcement agencies are obligations that justify processing personal data.

Data Subject Rights

Under the GDPR, individuals are empowered with specific rights concerning their data held by organizations. The regulation provides robust protections and clear avenues for individuals to understand and direct how their data is used.

Right to Access

Individuals have the right to obtain confirmation from the data controller as to whether or not personal data concerning them is being processed. They can request and receive a copy of the personal data, as detailed in Understanding Data Subject Rights and DSARs.

Right to Erasure

Often referred to as the “right to be forgotten,” this right allows individuals to request the deletion of their data when it is no longer necessary for the purposes for which it was collected or when they withdraw consent. Organizations can refer to guides like the GDPR Compliance Guide for further details.

Right to Data Portability

Data subjects are entitled to receive their data in a structured, commonly used, and machine-readable format. As the Guide to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) explains, they can transmit this data to another controller without hindrance.

Right to Object

Individuals can object to processing their data in certain circumstances, including processing for direct marketing, research, or statistical purposes. More information on this right can also be found in guides that help operationalize data-subject rights under GDPR.

Rights Related to Automated Decision-Making

This right ensures that individuals are not subject to a decision based solely on automated processing, including profiling, which produces legal effects concerning them. Organizations must inform individuals about the processing and provide a way to challenge and request human intervention, as outlined in The GDPR Data Subject Rights.

Data Protection Measures

Effective GDPR compliance requires robust data protection measures throughout the organization. Specific actions must be implemented to ensure data privacy and security as mandated by the regulation.

Data Protection by Design and Default

One must incorporate data protection into developing business processes for products and services. This involves integrating data privacy from the outset and considering it in all aspects of data handling.

  • Risk Assessment: Evaluate the data processing operations to identify and mitigate risks.
  • Data Minimization: Limit the data collected to what is necessary for the intended purpose.
  • Privacy Settings: Set the privacy by default to the most protected level.

Data Security

Organizations must implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to secure personal data against unauthorized access or unlawful processing.

  • Encryption and Anonymization: Use these techniques to protect data integrity and confidentiality.
  • Access Controls: Ensure that only authorized personnel have access to personal data.
  • Regular Updates: Update and patch systems and software to protect against vulnerabilities.

Data Breach Notification Procedures

They must have procedures to detect, report, and investigate personal data breaches.

  • Detection: Implement systems that identify breaches in real time.
  • Notification: Notify the relevant supervisory authority within 72 hours after becoming aware of a breach.
  • Documentation: Keep detailed records of all data breaches to inform impacted individuals and regulatory bodies when necessary.

Data Processing Framework

To achieve GDPR compliance, companies must establish a solid Data processing framework encompassing agreements, transfer protocols, and impact assessments to handle personal data correctly.

Data Processing Agreement

Organizations must draft and enforce a Data Processing Agreement (DPA) that clearly defines the roles and responsibilities associated with data processing. This legal document should outline the specifics of data processing activities, the scope of data to be processed, and the obligations of both the data controller and the processor to uphold data subjects’ rights.

Data Transfer Mechanisms

When personal data crosses borders outside the European Economic Area (EEA), organizations must implement robust Data Transfer Mechanisms. Adequate measures include adopting standard contractual clauses approved by the European Commission or ensuring the receiving country offers adequate data protection.

Data Protection Impact Assessment

A Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) is crucial before initiating data processing operations that might risk individuals’ privacy. Organizations should conduct a DPIA to identify and mitigate risks. It should detail the nature, scope, context, and purposes of processing and include measures to address and reduce identified privacy risks.

Accountability and Governance

Achieving GDPR compliance hinges on an organization’s ability to demonstrate accountability and enforce proper governance throughout its data processing activities. This encompasses appointing a knowledgeable Data Protection Officer, adhering to strict record-keeping requirements, and ensuring all organization members are trained and aware of their GDPR obligations.

Data Protection Officer

Under GDPR, specific organizations must appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO). This individual oversees compliance with GDPR, provides advice on data protection impact assessments, and acts as a point of contact for data subjects and supervisory authorities. For an organization to be GDPR compliant, the DPO must possess expert knowledge of data protection laws and practices.

Record-Keeping Requirements

Organizations must maintain detailed records of processing activities, as stipulated by GDPR. These records should include the types of data collected, data transfer details, and a description of security measures in place. Accurate record-keeping is essential for demonstrating compliance with lawfulness, fairness, transparency, and accountability principles.

Training and Awareness

Adequate training and awareness programs are critical components of GDPR compliance. Employees should know the importance of data protection and handling personal data correctly. Regular training ensures that employees are informed of their responsibilities under GDPR and helps prevent data breaches.

Compliance Verification

Compliance verification is an essential element of maintaining GDPR adherence. It involves systematic checks to ensure that all practices align with the strict data protection regulations set forth by GDPR.

GDPR Audits

GDPR audits comprehensively evaluate an organization’s data protection strategies and processes. They should be conducted regularly to assess the effectiveness of GDPR measures. Audits typically include reviewing policies, data processing activities, data protection impact assessments, and the roles and training of staff involved in data processing.

Monitoring and Reviewing Compliance

Regular monitoring and reviewing of compliance activities are critical for maintaining GDPR conformity. Organizations must continually observe their data processing and handling practices to promptly catch deviations from compliance requirements. This includes real-time analysis of data collection methods, consent records, and data security protocols.

  • Monitoring Tools: Utilization of advanced tools to track access and changes to personal data.
  • Review Process: A periodic, structured process where policies and practices are scrutinized against the current GDPR legislation, and corrective actions are taken if necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding and complying with the 7 GDPR principles is essential for any company that handles personal data. These principles include Lawfulness, Fairness, and Transparency; Purpose Limitation; Data Minimisation; Accuracy; Storage Limitations; Integrity and Confidentiality; and Accountability.

To be GDPR compliant, organizations must adhere to enhanced personal privacy rights, take a privacy-first approach to data collection and management, get consent wherever relevant, and respect the rights of individuals to control their data.

Yes, GDPR exists in the US, as individual states such as California have implemented similar policies. Businesses should stay on top of all regulatory requirements to remain compliant and avoid fines.

Complying with GDPR means organizations within the scope of GDPR must adhere to its regulations when processing personal data, ensuring data is treated with appropriate security and privacy measures.

 

Data controllers decide the purpose and legal basis for processing personal data, while data processors handle personal data on behalf of the controller.

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Milly is an international lawyer and tech entrepreneur who has advised companies on expanding globally for over 5 years. She is an advocate of remote hiring and regularly consults on future of work matters. Milly founded RemotePad to help employers learn more about building and growing international teams.

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