How to start your GDPR compliance journey in 2021

How to become GDPR compliant

The General Data Protection Regulation, more commonly known as GDPR turned the business world upside down with the new requirements on how to process the personal data of EU subjects forcing companies to reconsider their policies, adopt new procedures, and change the way they operate.

Here are some important details on the requirements:

As the law came into effect on May 25, 2018, businesses had two years to prepare for the new rules.

However, the question of becoming GDPR compliant remains relevant even after that time, as there are new companies appearing on the market or the existing ones want to expand their operations to EEA.

One more reason why this legislation acquired that much attention is the fines for a violation of GDPR. They are quite substantial and vary depending on the severity of the infringement starting from €10 mil  (or 2% of the worldwide annual revenue, if it was higher than this sum for the preceding year) reaching to €20 mil (or 4%  of the worldwide annual revenue)  per incident.

For sure, the exact sums depend on many other factors like cooperation, nature of the issue, mitigation, etc but these sums look serious to take all the measures to become compliant.

So here we have gathered the first steps a business needs to follow to become GDPR compliant:

Conducting the audit

The first step before starting any changes is defining where your organization is at the moment. To do so, a preliminary GDPR audit is required that will assess your systems, activities, records, processes, and data protection practice.

The proper audit will provide you with the full picture of your compliance to properly execute the GDPR policies, as well as critical flaws in the infrastructure or custom software, help you detect the safety of your systems, detect data breaches, as well as provide recommendations on the required changes.

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Defining the project scope

After the audit is done, and all the problematic areas are outlined, it’s possible to create the action item list of what needs to be changed.

It allows to break down the GDPR project into small doable chunks prioritizing the most problematic areas and dividing the scope between several teams so that several streams like changing infrastructure, business development processes, and negotiations with software vendors are going in parallel with the changes in the customer support procedures.

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Personnel-related activities

1. Training

During the project one of the most important streams is personnel training, so here you need to foster the culture of privacy and security awareness, paying special attention to the less tech-savvy employees.

Enrolling in the cybersecurity courses chosen by the company may be the best way for those who do not know where to start. Learning the first steps of safe internet conduct like opening suspicious emails and any attachments, file types with malware, and how to recognize a social engineer will give people the ground for further learning.

Usually, villains use human weaknesses to get the personal customers’ data, and when the data are subjected to GDPR laws, the consequences of such leakages will be disastrous.

When it comes to the more precise GDPR related training materials, here are several great Udemy options:

  • GDPR in 30 minutes. As the title suggests, this course is for busy people, as all the information about the regulations and requirements is squeezed into 30 minutes. It will get users acquainted with the basics. So, it’s a great way to start learning GDPR here.
  • European Data Protection Regulation(GDPR/CIPP) Course. One more fundamental course on GDPR will provide more detailed information including the compliance rules, and cross-border data transfers. It will be a perfect fit for those who apply for CIPP certifications or already work as a security specialist.
  • GDPR Privacy Data Protection CASE STUDIES (CIPT, CIPM, CIPP). This course is for a more advanced audience, e.g. acting data protection officers or cybersecurity techs, as well as for all those who already know the GDPR fundamentals and want to see how to apply the knowledge of the procedures into everyday security practice and enhance the security workflows within the company on the illustrated examples.

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2. Developing new internal policies and workflows

With adopting the new working tools, and changing the terms of processing personal information of individuals, your established workflows will need to undergo changes.

The new processes like personal data deletion workflows and managing the data processing inventories will need to become a part of routine work.

If you have a customer support team on the front line like calls and chats, they will need to learn new procedures and follow the updated scripts on answering the questions about GDPR compliance or processing requests connected with new policies.

3. Proper communication

Proper communication of new rules is key to success. The more transparent is your communication with employees, the higher are the chances for faster adaptation.

There’s no other way to conduct business with subjects of the European Union than by following GDPR policies. So you need to properly communicate the company’s plans to those who will be directly impacted by these new changes.

This communication usually includes company-level meetings with employees, regular email updates, and reiterating how the project is going on 1:1 calls.

Q/A sessions where all your team members will have a possibility to raise their concerns and ask all the important questions will not only facilitate GDPR adoption but also may help to see the moments that you haven’t thought about or give some workarounds for changing your system to become compliant.

4. Internal Checks

In order to check if the organization is ready to process GDPR related requests, it will be required to test if the employees properly follow all the procedures.

It should include simulating several use-case scenarios as if they are coming from the real data subjects to see how your staff can handle it.

Such internal checks will be an opportunity to assess the level of preparation and getting some failures here will be an indicator that additional training is required. It’s better than facing a real failure that may translate into enormous fines mentioned above.

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GDPR compliance is a very complex topic and an ongoing process. It is extremely important to note that every company has a different starting point and its own set of needs when it comes to compliance. Your journey may look a lot different and that’s ok as long as the end result is the same.

Along with GDPR, there are other security compliances like HIPAA and CCPA, so if your business falls into the area of their jurisdiction, consider expanding your personnel by hiring a data protection specialist or legal representative competent in this area.

Along with these laws come into action, many software vendors start offering digital products compliant with personal data protection. Implementing these compliance solutions will reduce the efforts in following the procedures at the same time adhering to all the requirements.

While the transition may not be an easy project, it’s definitely worth it, as data protection laws are not going away anytime soon

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