GDPR Compliance 6-Step Guide (Strategy/Planning)

Since May of this year, new regulations have been in place for international businesses who collect or store data on clients and customers from the European Union (EU). We’ve been hearing from lots of companies who are now realizing the May 25th compliance deadline has long passed and they’re unsure if they’re following these GDPR regulations correctly. So, we’re on a mission to help business professionals get compliant with a simple checklist.

6 Steps to Maintain Strategic GDPR Compliance

Exploring the key ways your organization can better uphold GDPR compliance

GDPR has made a lot of headlines this year – especially since the compliance deadline for covered entities was instituted in May. It’s no surprise that not every professional is a GDPR compliance specialist. In fact, when it comes to GDPR, many business professionals simply don’t know where to start when it comes to compliance. This often results in putting things off and trying to avoid the responsibility altogether.

However, it’s also no surprise that there’s huge fines and penalties at stake for non-compliance. Not to mention the negative fallout of having company or client data breached. So, business professionals must prioritize GDPR compliance to make sure their client and company data is secure. However, what most professionals don’t realize is that GDPR compliance isn’t a one-off job – it’s an ongoing business commitment.

You want the people you do business and share data with to trust you – and we want to help you make sure that’s possible on a consistent basis. If your company relies on international data transfers and information sharing, you need to take on GDPR compliance with a game plan. So, we’ve created a comprehensive, 6-step guide to maintaining GDPR compliance at every endpoint. Read on for the inside scoop.

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Everything You Need to Know: 6 Steps to GDPR Compliance

When it comes to upholding GDPR compliance, it’s all about looking at your data center and data sharing processes more carefully. By getting informed about the GDPR expectations and putting together a plan that will cover you as extensively as possible, you’ll be going a long way toward keeping your company network secure and compliant. Below you’ll find a six-step compliance guide to help you get started.

  1. Get to know the legislation

The first step towards getting and remaining GDPR compliant is to get informed. And the fact of the matter is, GDPR compliance isn’t a one-man show. Staying compliant requires participation and commitment from every member of your team. First things first, you and your team need to understand the key terms and concepts in the GDPR legislation. This will help ensure everyone’s on the same page and understands what’s expected.

Here are some of the key terms you and your team should learn together:

  • Data subject – a person whose data is handled by a data controller or data processor.
  • Data controller – the entity that determines the purposes, conditions, and means of handling a data subject’s personal data.
  • Data processor – an entity that handles data on behalf of the data controller.
  • Personal data – any information related to a person (data subject) that can be used to identify that person either directly or indirectly.

Now, here’s some of the key articles you should focus on reviewing with your team:

  • Article 5 – Principles relating to the processing of personal data
  • Article 6 – Lawful bases of personal data processing
  • Articles 12 though 22 – Data subject rights (access, data portability, right to be forgotten, etc.)
  • Article 25 & 32 – Implementation of protection measures for data subjects

Here’s some additional reminders to consider when reviewing the legislation:

  • Take your time to read the articles carefully.
  • Evaluate your products, services, tools, processes, and providers in relation to GDPR mandates.
  • Start planning how you will keep user data guarded carefully.
  • Connect with your collaborators about GDPR risks and regulations.
  • Get started with compliance right away

Once you’ve gotten a handle on the background information, don’t waste any time before getting your compliance effort started. If you’re wondering where to start, there are some key areas that serve as the perfect starting point. Being proactive with these initial compliance steps will make a huge difference in streamlining your effort in the long run.

Begin by taking immediate action in the following areas:

  • Data Mapping

Data mapping is all about coming to better understand how data moves in and out of your organization. Coming to know the way information flows in your company will help you take inventory of all the avenues you need to secure. Once you know how data moves, you’ll be better able to identify and patch challenge areas when it comes to compliance.

  • Privacy Policies

Next, be sure to review and update your company’s current Privacy Policy. This is one of the most important areas of GDPR compliance. Your privacy policy must outline the legal basis for obtaining and processing personal data and the proposed retention periods. Further, you must outline the rights of your data subjects and outline whether their data will be subject to automated decision making. Most importantly, all this information must be communicated clearly, in easy-to-understand language.

  • Team Training

As mentioned, GDPR compliance is a team effort that hopes to change the way your company handles sensitive data. Your team needs to understand the importance of data protection and be trained on the baseline principles of GDPR. Finally, they must be trained dutifully to understand the procedures being implemented and strategies being deployed for compliance.

Here’s some key reminders to consider as you start your compliance effort:

  • Create a hard copy data map to trace all the ways data moves in and out of your organization.
  • Be completely transparent with all clients and collaborators about privacy policies.
  • Be sure to give your team, vendors, and clients suitable notice regarding compliance changes.
  • Determine a consistent method for collecting consent from data subjects.
  • Put together a training module to help your team better understand their role in the compliance effort.
  • Consider your next compliance steps

The next steps in your compliance effort are all about better understanding your active responsibility. Data controllers should always have a keen idea of what’s required and how they can best fulfill their obligations. Schedule audits of all your data processing activities. Keep records of data processing up-to-date to ensure you can provide proof of consent if necessary.

Here’s some additional strategies to help you uphold your responsibilities under GDPR:

  • Do your research and talk to other vendors

GDPR doesn’t have any clear-cut rules, so companies are left to come up with the best strategies to protect the personal data of their clients. Of course, they want to protect data as strongly as possible without sacrificing user experience. Check in with other companies or vendors in your industry and learn from what they’re doing to uphold GDPR compliance while maintaining optimal customer service.

  • Outline policies for identifying and reporting data breaches efficiently

Now, this is the worst-case scenario, but being compliant means being prepared. Your company should have concrete policies and procedures in place to detect, report, and investigate internal and external data breaches. Data breach procedures should account for the severity of the breach, the number of subjects impacted, and the kind of data affected. Remember – under the GDPR data breaches on unencrypted data must be reported within 72 hours.

Here’s some final reminders for these steps in your compliance effort:

  • Design a reliable and strategic data breach reporting toolkit.
  • Be sure that all internal procedures are designed in line with GDPR mandates.
  • Review and update all employee, customer, and supplier contacts.
  • Secure all personal data through appropriate organizational and technical measures.
  • Verify if data transfers outside the EU are compliant with GDPR requirements.
  • Update and modify your website

Next, it’s critical to make small changes to your website that will help protect your client’s data and your company compliance. If your website collects personal data in any shape or form, be sure to consider implementing the following two adjustments:

  • Opt-In Forms

This is the most common way that businesses gather information, so you need to be sure to adjust all the forms your website uses. There is no one right way to do this, but reaching out to an IT professional can help you determine the best ways to modify your website forms in the name of GDPR compliance.

  • Cookie Consent

Basically, this is all about informing your site visitors in clear terms about the purpose of your websites cookies and data trackers from the get-go. There are different way companies choose to implement functional cookies and clear consent guidelines. This section is extremely important, as even newer EU regulations are expected in the coming months, that will focus even more closely on company site cookies.

  • Make sure all bases are covered

GDPR compliance can seem like a tedious task. But, taking the time to understand how to be compliant in all areas will save your company big-time. Once steps 1-4 have been considered and implemented effectively, don’t forget to think about these last areas of GDPR compliance:

  • Data transfer and disclosure

Be sure to obtain consent from all data subjects when their data is going to be processed or transferred outside of the EU/EEA.

  • Data protection impact assessments (DPIAs)

The GDPR makes DPIAs mandatory for all organizations involved in high-risk data processing, including new technologies, profiling operations, large scale monitoring, etc. If your company is involved in this kind of personal data processing, be sure to get informed about DPIAs.

  • Legitimate interest assessments (LIAs)

Unlike DPIAs, LIA is a best practice developed by privacy specialists and is used in situations where data controllers seek to rely on legitimate interests. An “interest” is considered “legitimate” when the data controller can pursue this interest in a way that complies with data protection and other laws.

  • Data protection officers

The GDPR requires some organizations to designate a Data Protection Officer (DPO). Organizations requiring DPOs include public authorities, organizations whose activities involve the regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale, or organizations that process “sensitive” personal data on a large scale.

  • Processing children’s data

If your company collects and processes data from underage data subjects, you must ensure that you have adequate mechanisms in place to verify age and collect guardian consent. The GDPR even has specific provisions for children under 16 years of age.

  • Monitor and audit systems regularly

Finally, once all the information has been absorbed and compliance strategies have been deployed, you must constantly monitor and audit your systems regularly to identify weak spots and improve secure compliance. Don’t wait for a disaster to spotlight your trouble areas – stay a step ahead.

Set a regular schedule for reviewing compliance policies and be sure to constantly check in on your systems to ensure things look as secure and transparent as possible. When it comes to GDPR compliance, keeping an eye on your network is the only way to stay consistently and proactively compliant.

Calling in Back Up: Why Many Businesses Partner with an IT Consultant for Compliance Support

At the end of the day, GDPR compliance is critically important for all entities covered by its mandates. Only you can know how to best implement GDPR compliance for your organization. Don’t search for a template or a one-size-fits-all compliance solution. Use this checklist as a guide and design a compliance game-plan, custom-tailored to meet the needs of your organization.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional IT consultant for additional guidance and support. The GDPR puts more responsibility on organizations and sometimes reaching out for some professional consultation can go a long way. Take stock of your compliance needs and reach out to an IT professional with data security experience.

The right IT consultant will be willing to help you and your team better understand GDPR compliance and why it’s so important. Even better? They’ll be able to help you develop baseline strategies for implementing and maintaining a compliant company network. Don’t spend any more time trying to crack the compliance code on your own – reach out for professional IT support and get your network secure and compliant in no time.

Did you find this article informative? As always, we’re happy to help! If you liked this, check out these other articles we think you’ll love: