You wouldn’t enjoy paying a fine of 4 percent of your company’s total revenue. But that’s the potential penalty if your company is found in violation of the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which goes into effect May 25, 2018. As you’ve probably read, organizations anywhere in the world are subject to GDPR if they have customers in the EU and are storing any of their personal data.
GDPR compliance is a complex topic. It’s too much for one article — heck, books galore are being written about it, seminars abound, and GDPR consultants are on every street corner.
One challenge is that GDPR is a regulation, not a how-to guide. It’s big on explaining penalties for failing to detect and report a data breach in a sufficiently timely manner. It’s not big on telling you how to detect that breach. Rather than tell you what to do, let’s see what could go wrong with your GDPR plans—to help you avoid that 4 percent penalty.
First, the ground rules: GDPR’s overarching goal is to protect citizens’ privacy. In particular, the regulation pertains to anything that can be used to directly or indirectly identify a person. Such data can be anything: a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, social network posts, medical information, or even a computer IP address. To that end, data breaches that may pose a risk to individuals must be disclosed to the authorities within 72 hours and to the affected individuals soon thereafter.
What does that mean? As part of the regulations, individuals must have the ability to see what data you have about them, correct that data if appropriate, or have that data deleted, again if appropriate. (If someone owes you money, they can’t ask you to delete that record.)
Enough preamble. Let’s get into ten common problems.
First: Your privacy and data retention policies aren’t compliant with GDPR
There’s no specific policy wording required by GDPR. However, the policies must meet the overall objectives on GDPR, as well as the requirements in any other jurisdictions in which you operate (such as the United States). What would Alan do? Look at policies from big multinationals that do business in Europe and copy what they do, working with your legal team. You’ve got to get it right.
For example, let’s say you store information about German customers in Frankfurt. Great. But if that data is backed up to a server in Toronto, maybe not great.
Third: Your third-party providers aren’t honoring your GDPR responsibilities
Let’s take that customer data in Frankfurt. Perhaps you have a third-party provider in San Francisco that does data analytics for you, or that runs credit reports or handles image resizing. In those processes, does your customer data ever leave the EU? Even if it stays within the EU, is it protected in ways that are compliant with GDPR and other regulations? It’s your responsibility to make sure: While you might sue a supplier for a breach, that won’t cancel out your own primary responsibility to protect your customers’ privacy.
A place to start with compliance: Do you have an accurate, up-to-date listing of all third-party providers that ever touch your data? You can’t verify compliance if you don’t know where your data is.
But wait, there’s more
You can read the entire list of common GDPR failures in my story for HPE Enterprise.nxt, “10 ways to fail at GDPR compliance.”