Businesses and public institutions around the globe face ever-tightening data privacy and security laws – as part of an ongoing drive to lockdown sensitive data from misuse, theft, corruption, and loss. Organizations are increasingly accountable for protecting personal data end-to-end: from the point of collection, right through to storage, management, and sharing.
Whether you’re a private enterprise or a public institution, operating internationally, nationally, or locally, data compliance is fast-becoming not only a regulatory requirement but a key performance indicator in terms of the trust and reputation of your organization, product or services. Let’s take a closer look at what data compliance means, how you can manage it, and even how you can turn it into a competitive advantage.
What is data compliance?
Data compliance is the act of adhering to regulatory requirements and standards in the way that data is handled, stored, organized, and managed. Its purpose is to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access, accidental loss, cyberattacks, corruption, or misuse.
Data protection and data privacy regulations specify which types of data need protecting, the processes required to keep it safe, and the consequences of being non-compliant. Businesses have a legal duty to conform to these regulations in order to properly protect personally identifiable information (PII) and keep sensitive details confidential.
One of the world’s most comprehensive and stringent data privacy and security laws, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is helping to shape and raise data privacy standards in every part of the world. Although passed in the European Union (EU), its reach extends internationally — anywhere that data is collected from EU citizens. Learn more about GDPR by watching this short video guide:
Similarly, California residents have gained extended rights over their personal data with the California Consumer Privacy Act 2018 (CCPA) which gives greater powers to the Californian consumer in terms of knowing what personal information is collected by businesses and how it’s used. They can also request that certain data be deleted, opt-out of its sale, and expect non-discrimination when they exercise those rights.
Why is data compliance important?
Data compliance is important because ever tighter regulations are coming into play to protect people across multiple geographic locations. In fact, by 2023 it’s anticipated that data privacy legislation will apply to around 65% of the world’s population.
As the workplace becomes increasingly digitized, global dependence on technology steadily rises. On a daily basis, businesses and government organizations collect data in larger quantities, requiring ever more sophisticated techniques for keeping it safely collected, stored, and analyzed. Data breaches and data exposures are on the rise, with some reports suggesting that there were over 1000 data breaches in the US during 2020 (compared with 662 in 2011) alongside almost 156 million individual data exposures.
High-profile data breaches in both the private and public sector are strong indicators of security threats to structured and unstructured data. It is now known that Yahoo’s now infamous data breach in 2013 saw hackers steal data associated with over 3 billion accounts. When India's national ID database, Aadhaar, was compromised in 2018 over 1.1 billion records were lost. The leaked biometric information (iris and fingerprint scans) could be used to unlock government services, including bank accounts and financial support.
There’s no denying that a data breach can be costly. In 2021, the average cost of a data breach was around $4.24 million USD. When it comes to data compliance, organizations simply can’t afford to take the risk. Doing nothing about data compliance is no longer an option. In fact, to maintain a competitive advantage, many forward-thinking organizations are going above and beyond compliance.
If data compliance means meeting the minimum legal requirements, then organizations creating their own policies around data security and data integrity have the opportunity to go above and beyond:
- Data Security: The protection of data from unauthorized access and corruption throughout its lifecycle.
- Data Integrity: The accuracy, completeness, and consistency of data. In other words, the quality of data.
What are the benefits of data compliance?
Other than it’s a legal requirement, the simple answer is trust.
Whether you’re based online with a remote workforce, operating out of multiple international locations, or trading within a single US state, being data privacy compliant makes you a trustworthy enterprise for employees, customers, and clients.
Think about it. If you were making a decision to purchase a product or service from one of two companies, which one would you choose: the one with a patchy data security record, or the one with outstanding data privacy credentials?
- Effective data-driven organizations oversee their data and set up best practices that instill confidence and trust from those handling sensitive data in their day-to-day roles.
- Knowing their data is safe can be an attractive proposition for potential employees and customers, who start to perceive your brand as trustworthy and reliable.
- Noncompliance not only results in negative and damaging publicity, it could also result in the end of your business in terms of reputation and/or financial penalties.
- Strong data compliance is a powerful indication of your commitment to customers and helps you build better brand loyalty.
How can you ensure data compliance?
Meeting your obligations in terms of data privacy and data protection is a complicated undertaking, but there are simple steps you can take to ensure compliance with legal regulations.
1. Know when and how to hit delete
Different business regulations require you to keep data for different time periods before disposing of it. In addition, customer requests for data erasure have specific time frames and requirements. Company policy and procedures should outline processes for dealing with requests and the appropriate and secure method of disposal.
2. Create a scalable system for handling personal information requests
Don’t wait for your first personal information request to set up a system for gathering data from across your organization. Ensure you have an automated system for discovering , gathering, and packaging the relevant information quickly and efficiently.
3. Pre-package personal information reports
When you receive a request for personal information from a consumer, it’s much easier to handle and process when you have a template in place. One request may not be too time-consuming, but processing multiple requests at scale can be time-consuming and put a strain on your resources.
4. Track personal information across your organization
You can’t delete something if you don’t know where it’s stored or where it’s been shared. By the same token, you can’t protect data if you’re not able to locate it. With multiple moving parts, you need to ensure your organization has a rigorous system in place to recognize and track personal information within its workflows.
5. Protect structured and unstructured data
Structured data, like the information sitting in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, is an obvious cache of sensitive data which needs to be accessed and used by the right people at the right time. Relatively speaking, because it’s structured, the process of data management and security is more straightforward.
Unstructured data, like the sensitive information held in Word documents and even photographs, requires a more sophisticated solution in the form of data masking.
How can you achieve complete data compliance?
No matter how big your organization, data compliance is a complex and crucial requirement to get right. A data breach can be costly, both financially and in terms of your reputation.
Some businesses and public sector organizations, never truly recover from a data breach, whether that’s due to an accidental loss or an orchestrated cyberattack. For others, it spells the beginning of the end.
To ensure your organization stays data privacy compliant, ABMartin offers a complete data management solution with a range of services including data privacy roadmapping as well as training and enablement for your people.
Interested to find out more? Explore our Complete Data Management solution.