For any organization handling personal and sensitive data, it’s important to get a grip on data privacy. It’s one of those areas where it pays to be proactive – as countless, costly, company data breaches can attest.
If you’re reactive, waiting for something to go wrong before taking any action, it can be too late to put things right. Thankfully, knowledge of the regulations, risks, and right solutions can help your organization feel more confident about data privacy.
Here’s our brief guide to data privacy, why it’s important, and how to get it right.
What Is Data Privacy?
Data privacy, also known as information privacy, is an aspect of data protection concerning the handling of personal and sensitive data in accordance with recognized best practice as well as compliance with data protection laws and regulations. Data privacy comes into play when an organization collects, stores, and manages personal data and if they share it with third parties.
As defined by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) personal data includes any information which enables a ‘natural person’ to be uniquely identified, either directly or indirectly, by any combination of data, including their name, home address, geographical location, Internet Protocol (IP) address, and medical records.
Article 9 of the GDPR also sets out special categories of personal data which can only be processed by an organization if one of ten conditions are met. Sensitive personal data includes:
- sex life
- genetic data
- biometric data
- political opinion
- sexual orientation
- racial or ethnic origin
- trade union membership
- religious or philosophical beliefs
Why Is Data Privacy Important?
Data privacy regulations are important because they protect personal data from misuse, whether that’s the selling of data to third parties without lawful consent, or criminal activity involving fraud or harassment. With just a few pieces of personally identifiable information (PII) it’s possible for a criminal to create false accounts or sell someone’s identity.
Most countries in the world recognize the need for privacy in some form or another. In the EU, it’s viewed as a social value as well as a fundamental human right, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 12), the European Convention of Human Rights (Article 8), and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 7). Whilst in the US, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) ensures California consumers have greater control over how their personal information is collected and sold by businesses.
In 2020, data privacy legislation applied to just 10% of the world’s population. By 2023, it’s projected that 65% of the globe will be covered by data privacy laws. So it’s only a matter of time before data privacy becomes a universal human right across the world. Ensuring data privacy is also important for organizations to establish and maintain trust with the people who interact with them. From government departments to major retailers, it’s important that personal data is handled with care. Learn more about the global picture of data privacy by watching this short video from the United Nations (UN):
With the big picture in mind, forward-thinking businesses handling sensitive and personal data would do well to see regulations as the minimum standard, and ensure their day-to-day practices go above and beyond. Especially when you consider the negative financial and reputational impact of a data breach, ensuring you have watertight data security is a key competitive differentiator in both business to business, and business to customer relationships alike.
Data Privacy Versus Data Security
There’s a common misconception that data privacy and data security are the same thing. Unfortunately, taking precautions to keep sensitive data secure may not be enough to ensure compliance with data privacy laws.
Compliance is the key difference between data privacy and data security. Data privacy requires best practice and compliance with laws and regulations in terms of how you collect, store, handle, and share personal data. It sets the standard for securely handling data within your organization.
On the other hand, data security encompasses the package of protection you put around personal and sensitive data throughout its lifecycle. Data security makes use of tools and technology to safeguard data from internal and external threats. It can also ensure an individual’s privacy is protected from exposure.
Data security is typically enacted through a company’s data security policy, with its measures protecting data in terms of people, processes, and technology.
What Is Data Risk?
Data risk is the extent to which data held by your organization has the potential for loss, at any point in its lifecycle, from collection through to disposal.
As organizations continue to share increasingly large volumes of information in the spirit of collaboration, whether that’s for training purposes or for generating business insights, sensitive data becomes more and more vulnerable to risk.
Without effective data governance, data management, and data security, the personal and sensitive data within your organization is wide open to a privacy breach, accidentally as a result of poor data practices, or externally as the result of a cyberattack.
The clean-up operation required after a breach of personal and sensitive information can be expensive and extensive. Never mind the fines, and legal costs involved, there’s the labor required to put things right, the repairs to IT infrastructure, potential downtime, and all the while ongoing damage to your brand’s reputation.
It’s a ticking clock, and a situation from which some businesses never fully recover. Just consider Yahoo, who agreed to a $117.5 million settlement after millions of email addresses and personal information were stolen between 2013 and 2016.
How Do You Ensure Data Privacy?
The need to protect customer data has never been greater. That’s why it’s essential to ensure the data health of your organization by having clear policies around data privacy.
Primarily, your company policies need to ensure that you have robust processes and practices for handling personal data to ensure full compliance when dealing with citizens from different parts of the world.
Access controls play an important role in keeping data private, as do robust measures for maintaining the integrity of data so that it cannot be altered.
Security measures are important to keep sensitive data safe, but they’re only effective in terms of data privacy when the correct level of security is applied to safeguard personally identifiable information.
These data security measures include:
- Data resiliency in terms of recovery from a critical event such as power failure.
- Data encryption to make text unreadable to unauthorized readers.
- Data erasure to ensure deleted sensitive data is unrecoverable.
- Data masking to hide personally identifiable information.
How Does Dynamic Data Masking Support Data Privacy?
Dynamic data masking from ABMartin replaces personal and sensitive data with similar values, so your documents have the same look and feel, but personally identifiable data stays safe and secure.
With access controls, you can even set different levels of redaction based on each user’s authorization level. And alternations aren’t permanent, so you won’t use up unnecessary storage space with multiple files.