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What you need to know about data privacy & 5 steps to ensure your organization stays compliant

June 10, 2021

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Data Privacy is an area of data protection that deals with the proper handling of information, focusing on compliance with data protection regulations.

How data should be collected, stored, managed, and shared with any third parties—are the main concerns of data privacy. These concerns encompass the following elements:

  • The right of an individual to be left alone and have control over their data
  • Procedures for proper handling, processing, collecting, and sharing of personal data

Why data privacy matters

Data is an important asset, and collecting and sharing data in today’s digital economy is equally crucial. However, taking advantage of any collected data requires businesses to ensure that the information is rightfully protected and privacy is respected

Giving back control over data to empower individuals to know how their information is used, why, and by whom, is the main goal of data protection. Moreover, data privacy is more important today than ever, challenging companies to update their policies and procedures and align themselves with the new regulatory landscape.

According to a recent study about data privacy in 2020 (100 Data Privacy and Data Security statistics), 84% of respondents said that they care about privacy and the data of other members of society. They want more control over how their information is being used.

The pandemic has pushed even further data privacy issues for organizations across the globe. Collecting personal data about your employees when it comes to health and travel requires the right measures to protect their privacy and stay compliant with regulations. However, oftentimes, security breaches can cause a violation of privacy regulations, as companies can’t keep up with today’s cyber risk landscape. 

The most common data privacy regulations

HIPAA – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act sets the standard for how patient information needs to be handled by hospitals, insurance companies, doctors, and organizations handling personal health information. The rules that organizations must abide by are: 

  • Ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all e-PHI they create, receive, maintain or transmit
  • Identify and protect against threats to the security or integrity of the data
  • Protect against reasonably anticipated, impermissible uses or disclosures
  • Ensure compliance by their workforce

GDPR – The General Data Protection Regulation was enacted in 2018 to protect the rights of citizens in the EU where data collection and privacy are concerned. This applies to companies that:

  • Have a presence in an EU country
  • Are not in the EU, but process the personal data of European residents
  • Have more than 250 employees
  • Have fewer than 250 employees, but the data-processing impacts the rights and freedoms of subjects or includes certain types of sensitive personal information

The GDPR is one of the toughest data privacy regulations to comply with, giving customers the right to know how and what data is being collected for.

PCI-DSS – The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards is not government regulation, but enforced by an independent regulatory body, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. Any organization that accepts, stores, or transmits cardholder data is subject to PCI-DSS. This requires companies to protect their customers’ data and ensure proper handling and storing of credit card data.

SOX – The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 sets the requirements for retaining and storing business records and penalties for destroying, altering, or falsifying records. It also requires a system for tracking changes to records and storing the right records for the right length of time.

5 steps to ensure your organization stays compliant

A systematic compliance effort is vital and companies need to do it as soon as possible. To ensure your business complies with regulations, you might want to consider a few steps.

1. Creating a good overall compliance strategy

Your compliance strategy needs to have data privacy at its core while also being comprehensive, measurable, and integrated. Ensure you take the necessary steps and time to define all the measures that will be taken to protect personal data.

2. Work with compliance experts 

A growing number of regulations require companies to keep track of all the changes and updates, but this isn’t always possible or easy. The solution can be hiring an expert trained in GDPR, for example, or HIPAA regulations, who will develop legally compliant policies for your business.

3. Ensure integrity, confidentiality, and data availability

Establishing procedures for data protection is crucial, and you have to ensure integrity, confidentiality, and data availability with physical, technical, and administrative safeguards. These safeguards will detect and stop unauthorized access to data. Moreover, you will need to monitor and constantly update information security, ensuring threats will be dealt with effectively.

4. Create a response plan for cyberattacks 

Data breaches and cyberattacks can happen to any organization, regardless of how well you comply with all regulations and policies. That is why your company should prepare and create a strong response plan for these unfortunate events. Training your staff on the response plan is also vital and a step you don’t want to miss.

5. Have proper documentation and provide proof of compliance

Your processes and response plans need to have proper documentation and the right content management system. Additionally, be ready to show proof of compliance to internal and external queries. 

Conclusion

Growing security threats and cyberattacks have pushed organizations to become increasingly concerned about data privacy, and for good reason. A company is dependent on its customers, so breaking their trust by letting their sensitive information be affected, will immediately have a bad impact on the business. So, to avoid unwanted consequences, it is vital to set up your company to comply with data privacy regulations.