Need to Know: A Guide to Data Privacy

Business today revolves around information. A lot of sensitive information is transferred, given, and stored. This is not only about our own companies and employees, but that of our partners, clients, and vendors. Contact information, bank details, employees’ personal data, etc. Any number of seemingly innocuous documents, if handled incorrectly, could become a serious data privacy breach. Even the way data is gathered and used needs to be carefully managed in accordance with GDPR.

What is Data Privacy?

The terms ‘Data Privacy’ and ‘Data Security’ are often used interchangeably. In fact, they refer to different areas of data management. Data Security is where you concentrate on protecting data from cyber-attacks and hacking. Meanwhile, Data Privacy focuses on how data is collected, shared, and used.

All stored data is sorted into four categories: Confidential, Restricted, Internal, and Public. Personal Data, such as bank details, birth dates, home addresses, NI Numbers, etc., are all classified as confidential without exception. The protection of personal data is paramount to Data Privacy. Any misuse of this information by third parties could result in serious consequences for the individual. A few examples include phishing scams and identity theft.

GDPR

The Data Protection Act 2018 is the UK’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The term GDPR has worked its way into common vocabulary over the past few years. This is usually accompanied by scoffs and eye-rolls and the dread of anyone involved in policy paperwork. However, for the consumer, this is here as a defence of our personal data. As businesses, it is our responsibility to ensure we gather, use, and share this data responsibly.

Businesses must adhere to the principals of this act to keep data accurate, safe, secure, and lawful. Within these principals, it is understood that you must:

  • Explicitly state what data will be used for
  • Do not store data for longer than necessary and stated
  • Only use data in relevant ways
  • Keep data safe and secure
  • Do not transfer data out of the European Economic Area
  • Store data according to people’s data protection rights

These principals are especially relevant when: recruiting staff, updating employee records, marketing your products or services, using CCTV on your premises, etc.

What is the risk of non-compliance?

Ensuring compliance with data protection laws and policies is crucial. Failure to comply can be devastating for you and your business. You can face serious consequences, including prosecution, leading to fines up to £500,000 or even action that could result in a prison sentence. Outside of the UK, the fines can be even greater.

According to international law firm DLA Piper, approximately £900 million in GDPR fines have been issued since 28th January 2021. In August 2021, Amazon Europe received a fine of €746m (approx. £620 million) from Luxembourg’s National Commission for Data Protection (CNPD). This fine was issued for the way Amazon Europe used customer data for targeted advertising purposes.

How can I ensure I’m in compliance?

It’s the word very few like to hear: Audits. The best way to ensure compliance is through audits. Audit your policies, find the points where the policies lack or require improvement, fix them, and then audit again.

Certification is a great way to assure your clients and partners that you are compliant with Data Privacy laws. This also lets them know that you take it seriously. Deciding which certification is best for your company can be tricky, since these do not tend to be ‘one size fits all’.

A security company, for example, handling client data such as home addresses and emergency contact details would be beholden to strict data privacy expectations. On the other hand, a sole trader might be held to a different standard. Also, ensuring you partner with companies who are compliant is a good step forward. You can then trust that data you share is kept in compliance with the recipient.

If you have any queries regarding Data Privacy, enablesIT is happy to help with any requirements. We can also arrange for you to liaise directly with our Security & Compliance Officer to assist with advice, upcoming audits, or certifications.


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