We are currently living in two different worlds – the digital world and the physical one. One day the twain shall meet but for now, the common thread between these worlds is they are both driven by data. Everything you share online, whether you are making an online purchase or simply posting a picture on social media, is processed and stored for a very long time, if not eternity.

As Pete Cashmore, the Founder of Mashable once famously said “Privacy is dead, and social media holds the smoking gun”. While it is easy to buy into this dystopian view, it is heartening to note that there have been landmark international privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA that have been passed to protect the information of consumers.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was passed by the European Union (EU) and It went into effect on May 25, 2018.

Although, it was created to protect the personal data of EU citizens, it affects businesses worldwide. If you have customers in or collect data from users in the EU – GDPR applies to you.

Companies that handle consumer data are entrusted with the responsibility of keeping it safe and not exploiting information they may be privy to unintentionally. This is reflected in the view taken by leaders of major companies like Facebook and Apple – Mark Zuckerberg has underlined the importance of Facebook moving focus away from what they would like to know about people to what people would like to share about themselves.

Engineering GDPR compliant businesses

GDPR regulates how companies collect, handle, and protect personal data and grant consumers more control over personal information collected about them. However, most businesses are still in the process of engineering their systems to be able to meet the necessary GDPR guidelines and have primarily relied on “User Consent” to achieve compliance.

A more comprehensive approach to complying with GDPR regulations in both the letter of the law as well as its spirit, would require addressing these concerns –

  • Data Lifecycle Management – Consumers have the right to know what is being done with their information and who receives it apart from demanding that their data not be shared or Businesses must have mechanisms in place to provide consumers with visibility of their data as well as the required interfaces to request actions like erasure.
  • Breach Notification – In the event of a breach, a business must be able to understand the details and nature of the data breach and promptly notify its users about when the data was stolen, lost, destroyed, or changed.
  • Increased Record Keeping – Businesses need to create processes around handling personal information and maintaining audit trails of processing requests for all data
  • Third Party Risk Management – While a business should start with cleaning its own house, it would also be imperative to renegotiate third-party contracts to enable compliance and management of contract

The importance of using a “Privacy by Design” approach

Given these regulations and the need to protect user data, privacy should now be a critical design component while creating a platform or a backend process flow. As a result, all businesses should adopt the “Privacy by Design” approach when creating products or building websites to keep data collection to a minimum while baking in security measures into all stages of a product’s design. The cardinal principles of “Privacy by Design” are as follows:

User-centric approach

A user centric approach demands that you place the needs of your users foremost while designing a system. This necessitates clear consent in collecting data, specifying what the data is being collected for, minimizing the amount of data collected and using it only for the purposes specified.

The second aspect of a user centric approach must facilitate transparency with users in the event of a data breach, so that the potential damage emanating from it can be mitigated.

Lastly, users should always be provided with complete visibility and control over their data, so they have a view of what information is stored about them and requesting for edits or deletion as required.

Incorporate privacy in the requirements and design phase

As businesses launch new products and services, they need to ensure that privacy has been addressed right from the beginning instead of treating it as an after-thought. This includes clear definitions of validating the need for data, defining data workflows, parties accountable for the data, and planning for data integrity and access controls.

Proactive Safety Measures

The importance of having the right safety mechanisms cannot be overstated. Businesses constantly need to be on their toes by using algorithms to monitor and take corrective action in the likelihood of a potential security incident that could lead to a data breach.

Leverage Technology

As the world becomes increasingly digital, there are various emerging technologies that can play a crucial role in enabling greater security. Apart from modernizing their existing systems to enable greater data security, businesses can focus on –

  1. Automating security controls for new products and applications to ensure the process of data collection and storage confirms to the right
  2. Adopting Blockchain for secure
  3. Using intelligent Bots to monitor platforms and networks and detect breach attempts and vulnerabilities.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was passed by the European Union (EU) and It went into effect on May 25, 2018.

Regulatory conformance requires expertise

As consumer privacy takes center stage and conforming to regulations becomes increasingly important, businesses do not have the luxury of hitting the pause button as they overhaul their existing systems and processes. It would involve a steep learning curve in addition to an exorbitant opportunity cost that would adversely impact most companies.

A much better approach would be to work with a partner that has deep technology expertise and a comprehensive understanding of privacy regulations. As companies continue to capture increasingly more data about their customers, it squarely becomes their prerogative to safeguard this information and utilize it appropriately. Like they say, with great power comes great responsibility – allow experts like us to shoulder some of it, so you can focus on what you do best!


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