Author: Vlatka Vuković, Privacy and Data Protection Specialist, CIPP/E, ISO 27001 LA, ISO 9001 LA
DPO – a dream job?
Designation conditions, position within the organization, and tasks of the Data Protection Officer (DPO) are clearly defined in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
A DPO is an expert, reputable and respected, who answers directly to top management and is trusted by all organizational levels, independent and unbiased, resolving exciting legal-technology issues with an entire team and all necessary resources at disposal.
DPO attends professional conferences, constantly improving knowledge and skills, and cannot be dismissed or penalized for performing appointed tasks.
Sounds like a dream job! However, let’s get back to reality.
Highly regulated and organized enterprises that have recognized the importance and benefits of having a DPO and a privacy team can be more of an exception than a rule.
However, there are steps you can take to create urgency and support for your privacy program within the company, and it is a task that should not be taken lightly.
Step 1: INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND MEET THE COMPANY
Who are you, what is the purpose of your role, why is the DPO important, and how and why should you be contacted?
Make sure the entire organization knows the answers to these questions.
Put yourself on the map
Depending on the internal communication channels, ensure that the news of your appointment and your contact information is made available to everyone within the organization.
This can be achieved through an internal newsletter, intranet article, circular memo, bulletin board, or by sending an official notice to the business process owners.
Do it in a way that is appropriate and commonly used to communicate important news or changes to the organization’s business.
Participate in the drafting of the notice that will be easy to understand and tailored to the reader, whether he is a lawyer, pharmacist, or sales representative.
Along with the notice, you can also prepare a leaflet or a short PowerPoint presentation, stating your contact information, describing your tasks, and explaining in which situations it is suitable to ask for your advice.
Attend top management meeting
Since you’ve been appointed by the board, request that you attend the next top management meeting. There you will have an opportunity to get to know key managers and they will have the opportunity to get to know you.
Take this opportunity to make a brief explanation of what is personal data protection, why is it important, what are possible negative consequences of breaching the provisions of the GDPR, and how you can help the organization to operate successfully while still respecting all its legal obligations and right of individuals.
Keep this presentation concise and informative. Avoid complicated legal terms and do not focus only on administrative fines. Personal data protection is much more than that!
Get to know everyone
After meeting with the top management, get to know other key roles and key business processes.
Simply send an email to colleagues with greater responsibilities (i.e. department and sector managers) and organize shorter, 30-to-45-minute meetings with them.
This process will take some time, depending on the size of the organization and its business. Do not rush it, because this is one of the most important steps for a newly appointed DPO.
It is one way to get recognized as a partner and advisor. It is an opportunity to provide your first advice and guidance.
Make allies within the company
Do not act as a critic or an inspector. The point of these meetings is to get to know the processes but to get to know the people as well and to look for “allies” for future tasks.
Certainly, an informative half-hour dialogue is not enough to get to know all processing of personal data nor to understand all business processes, but it is an indispensable first step and even a possible beginning of a wonderful friendship.
Step 2: FORM A PRIVACY TEAM
If there is a possibility to set up a special department at the organizational level which will be in charge of privacy and personal data protection, that department should be composed of experts who are familiar with the business processes and who understand the fundamental requirements of the GDPR.
In the case of large, territorially dispersed systems, the hierarchy and responsibilities include the following roles:
- Chief privacy officer
- Privacy manager
- Privacy analyst
- Business line privacy leaders
- Incident response team
- Regional DPO
However, it is not reasonable nor profitable for each organization to have a separate department that deals solely with privacy and personal data protection.
Depending on the size of the company and how business is organized, the DPO must keep regular contacts and relationships with key departments, i.e., HR and legal, IT, marketing, finance, sales, customer relations and customer support, and other key processes depending on the industry and types of relationship.
Employees with responsibilities within these departments should be part of the privacy network, coordinators, and contact points between “their” respective departments and the DPO.
How to achieve this?
Let’s recall what the GDPR says about the position and job role of a DPO:
The controller and the processor shall ensure that the data protection officer is involved, properly and in a timely manner, in all issues which relate to the protection of personal data. (Article 38.1)
Therefore, if the board expects the DPO to be involved in all relevant matters in a timely manner and perform all the necessary tasks in all important issues, they must enable it.
Assignment of responsibility is necessary for the implementation of a privacy program at all levels.
So, if you are not receiving all the necessary support, kindly remind the management of the GDPR requirements and your position and tasks defined in the decision on your appointment.
Just in case, (once again) provide a rationale for why personal data protection is not and cannot be a one-man show.
Step 3: ESTABLISH A PRIVACY PROGRAM
After you have introduced yourself, learned about the basic business processes, and formed your team, it’s time to establish a privacy program.
Privacy program is special, just like your organization is. The program describes the mission and vision and defines what you want to achieve in the area of personal data protection.
It cannot be copied or plagiarized, and it depends on several factors.
First of all, it will depend on the legal obligations relating to the organization or arising from relevant national legislation.
It will also depend on the size of the organization and its territorial constitution, corporate culture, employee structure, and many other factors.
In short, privacy programs for a fast-growing startup employing 200 millennials and for a public authority providing utilities cannot be the same.
In addition to good wishes, the program must include serious plans and tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities.
To make it easier for you, depending on all the aforementioned factors, check whether there are any GDPR provisions that are not applicable to your organization.
Given that there are only a few such exceptions, and they rarely apply, the program will need to include the following necessary elements:
- establishing the records of processing activities and defining responsibilities for keeping them updated
- personal data protection risks assessment and defining responsibilities and the assessment methodology
- defining adequate technical and organizational measures for the protection of personal data
- incident management – defining responsibilities and establishing a procedure for handling personal data breaches
- establishing a procedure for handling data subject requests
- defining the methodology and responsibilities for conducting legitimate interest assessments and data protection impact assessments
- defining new and maintaining current policies and procedures
- arranging relationships with data processors
- establishing education and awareness-raising programs
- establishing regular personal data protection audits (program, plan, and methodology)
Only the basic requirements are listed, and you can specify them in more detail and divide them into several separate categories.
The DPO and the privacy team define the privacy program, but they cannot be held solely responsible for its implementation!
The DPO advises and provides expert assistance, while the privacy program is implemented operationally by competent employees.
The board must provide the resources, primarily human and financial, to implement the program. Let’s remind ourselves of what the GDPR says about that matter:
“The controller and processor shall support the data protection officer in performing the tasks by providing resources necessary to carry out those tasks and access to personal data and processing operations, and to maintain his or her expert knowledge.” (Article 38.2)
Step 4: ADVISE ON SELECTION OF METHODOLOGY AND TECHNOLOGY
One of the tasks of a DPO is to advise on the selection of methodology and other technical solutions for privacy program implementation, such as records of processing activities platform, risk assessment tools, DPIA tools, software for legitimate interest assessments, or for managing data subject requests.
Instead of defining new methods and frameworks, use those that have been tested and recommended by supervisory authorities and other professional organizations.
If your organization’s needs require the use of sophisticated tools and publicly available templates that are not good enough to meet your needs, opt for one of the advanced technical solutions.
When choosing such a solution, consider the needs of the organization and the complexity of the operational function in implementing the privacy program.
Of course, make sure to check other users’ experiences and reviews of the chosen tool.
Step 5: TRAINING, CERTIFICATION, AND PARTICIPATION IN PROFESSIONAL COMMUNITIES
Let’s make it clear right away – there is no DPO certificate, nor is such certification mandatory under the GDPR.
However, it’s always helpful to attain new knowledge through various training, courses, or webinars.
Among the many courses that are out there on the market, find those that best suit your needs and the needs of your team.
When doing so, consider the prerequisite knowledge for taking the course, learning outcomes, teaching style, content quality, and the expertise and professional reputation of the lecturers themselves.
In addition to publicly available courses, get informed about tailor-made, in-house workshops provided by highly specialized experts.
This way, you will receive custom-made training tailored to your organization’s core business and the needs of your privacy team and other responsible employees.
Do you need a certificate? Certificates are not mandatory. However, like all other certificates, they serve the purpose of demonstrating competencies.
If you decide to get certified, choose internationally recognized and valued certifications, some of which are sought after as an advantage and sometimes also as a requirement for privacy roles in the EU.
Apart from training courses, you can also learn a lot from your peers.
Find out if there is a professional community of privacy professionals operating in your vicinity. Get in touch with them and request membership.
By working with such a community, you will meet many interesting and experienced professionals, share experiences with them and tackle some seemingly insoluble situations together.
Sometimes you will disagree and have different opinions, but you will certainly enjoy the discussion.
Attend conferences and similar public events, especially those organized by a competent supervisory authority.
Conferences are great opportunities to meet experts, both from the academic circle and the industry, as well as representatives of the supervisory authority.
The connections and acquaintances you make and continue to build will certainly be useful for your future work and career development.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, live meetups and conferences have moved to online platforms and webinars, but consider conferences once they open their doors once again.
Privacy networks and social media
Be active on social media platforms for professionals. Expand your professional network, follow proactive individuals, read expert articles, share interesting and useful content.
Follow specialized privacy portals and sign up for privacy and data protection newsletters to find out the most important news and events on a weekly or monthly basis.
In addition to the mandatory and professional literature (laws, judgments, guidelines, etc.), try to find time for other activities as well.
Choose interesting documentaries, podcasts, panel discussions, books…
Compliance is an ongoing process and can never be completed. Therefore your tasks will also never end.
Don’t be strict with yourself because you have a feeling that you still have a lot to do and learn.
This feeling is real and justified, as privacy and personal data protection is a comprehensive regulation that is constantly evolving and adapting to new social circumstances and the advancement of technology.
Therefore, be proactive and constantly raise awareness of the importance of personal data protection.
Good luck and enjoy your DPO journey!