With an ever-increasing amount of people using the Internet, it’s hardly surprising that concerns about data privacy have also risen accordingly. Two years ago, the European Union put the wheels in motion to address their citizens’ privacy concerns by passing European data protection regulation legislation called General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR.

When the EU passed the GDPR in April of 2016, they gave all businesses that conduct business with EU customers two years to comply with the new regulations. The legislation is designed to give consumers better control of any personal data collected by businesses. It further sets limits on what companies can with the data they collect, as well as how long they can hold onto it.

Penalties for non-compliance are strict. Any business that violates the GDPR laws will be assessed fines of up to four percent of their annual global turnover, or $24.6 million (20 million Euros equivalent), whichever happens, to be greater. The steepness of the fines reflects the seriousness of the issue as a whole.

But GDPR compliance doesn’t just apply to EU-based companies; any business anywhere in the world that wants to engage in commerce with EU citizens must work within these rules. In this article, we will cover what the GDPR compliance is and how to follow it.

Incidentally, if you don’t think this applies to your business because it doesn’t do business with the EU, bear in mind that other nations (and the US states) are considering to adopt similar regulations. Even if the GDPR doesn’t affect you now, there’s a good chance something like it will affect your business in the near future.

Read on, and see what European data protection regulation and data privacy has in store for your business.

Do All Businesses Need to Comply?

Before launching into compliance, it’s prudent to establish just what businesses need to follow these new regulations. Any company that stores and/or processes information about EU citizens living in EU states must comply.

The following list elaborates on that condition. Companies that must comply are:

  • Based or have a presence in an EU nation
  • Doesn’t have a presence in the EU, but deals with personal data of EU citizens, in the course of offering goods and services either for free or for payment
  • Companies with more than 250 employees
  • Companies with fewer than 250 employees, but whose data processing regularly impact the rights and freedom of EU citizens; also if any of the data is of a certain personal nature.

A non-EU business whose website, email, or other contact details are accessible to EU residents doesn’t necessarily need to comply, but if the business’ website markets to EU residents in their own language or lists prices in the form of EU member currency, then it’s more likely that compliance will be expected. After all, it’s one thing if people in Spain happen to visit your website; it’s another if you’re actively targeting them in Spanish and listing prices in Euros!

What Does GDPR Compliance Entail?

  • The GDPR protects the following types of privacy through compliance:
  • Ethnic/racial data
  • Political opinions/alignments
  • Sexual orientation
  • Biometric data (fingerprints, retina)
  • Health-oriented data (medical history, clinical treatment, disease history)
  • Genetic data (results of RNA, DNA analyses)
  • Web data (IP addresses, cookies, location, RFID tags)
  • Basic identity data (name, address, photos, identification numbers)

So what does GDPR compliance look like? Even though that answer won’t be precisely the same for every company, there are some common characteristics of compliance.

To begin with, there needs to be a coherent company policy in overall GDPR compliance, regardless of the size and type of business you’re involved in. For instance, that means figuring out ahead of time what sort of personal data you are asking of your customers, where it’ll be stored, and how it’ll be used. The description of those collective data measures is known as fair processing notices and must be made available to customers. After that, your business should review and update security measures in order to assure data privacy, and that means using GDPR-approved encryption. 

But arguably the biggest, most significant part of GDPR compliance will be in the area of customer engagement. All consumers now have a greatly expanded need to know. For instance, if and when their data has been hacked, customers need to be notified in a timely manner. Gone are the days of finding out that the financial information that you entered on a website was hacked six months ago! 

Consumers can also gain easier access to the information that a business is processing and storing, as stated in the above-mentioned fair processing notices. That means that businesses must be ready to handle those requests in a timely manner, which usually can be done by something as easy and elementary as an email.

There is one consumer-related bit of compliance that is already being done by many businesses, and that’s the opt-in email. Businesses are sending out these emails to their customers and asking them to opt-in in order for them to keep receiving promotional materials, emails and other announcements. Such opt-in messages must be absolutely clear, free of ambiguity.

If all of this sounds like a lot to process, don’t worry; our next section provides a way of staying organized while carrying out the task of GDPR compliance:

The GDPR Audit Checklist

The following is a GDPR audit checklist that we compiled in order for businesses to keep better track of what they need to do. This way, any business can see if they have covered all of the bases when dealing with the challenge of GDPR compliance. 

  • Hire a Data Protection Officer. First thing’s first. A Data Protection Officer (DPO) is responsible for your company’s GDPR compliance. This is the person who will make sure everything on the checklist is done, and that things stay current and up to code, included by conducting a GDPR audit at regular intervals. A DPO is required for any public authority or company larger than 10 to 15 employees, that process personal data. The DPO is responsible for informing and advising the controller or processor of obligations under the GDPR, as well as for monitoring GDPR compliance. The DPO needs to be an expert in data protection, and function as an independent entity.
  • Perform a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA). Before your company starts a new project that involves personal data that’s to be kept in permanent storage, your DPO must perform a DPIA. This assessment checks your business’ processes and how they may impact the privacy of anyone that your business collects data on.
  • It’s Better to Ask Permission Than Ask Forgiveness. Before your business stores or processes data gained from customers, you need to ask the latter first. The request must be presented in plain, easily understood terms, explaining how customer data will be used, and how long it will be both used and stored. There also needs to be a provision for customers to be able to opt out.
  • Have a System of Rapid Breach Notification. The terms of the GDPR say that when a breach is discovered, businesses must alert local data protection authorities with 72 hours. So businesses must make sure that they have procedures and resources in place that can both detect the breaches and make it easy to notify the right people.
  • The Right to be Forgotten. Lastly, businesses are limited under the GDPR on how long they can use and keep personal data. Therefore, businesses must have procedures in place that remove all traces of personal data when either the time is expired, or the consumers request the data to be deleted.

And there you have it. It should be noted that even if your business doesn’t fall within the criteria for mandatory GDPR compliance, you should consider taking steps in that direction anyway, perhaps starting with a GDPR audit to see how much you’d have to change. That way, if your business expands to EU markets, or if your nation adopts similar compliance rules (or “all of the above”), you’ll be ready.

If it seems that these measures are extremely tough and labor-intensive, console yourself with the fact that these rules were inevitable. There have been too many instances of leaks, data abuse, and failing to report hacks, for these compliance measures not to be introduced sooner or later. On the upside, GDPR compliance may increase consumer confidence and result in greater customer engagement. So rather than see GDPR as a burden, look at it as an investment in the future.

Do You Want to Become GDPR Certified?

Speaking of the future, have you considered perhaps becoming an expert in GDPR? Simplilearn’s GDPR Certification Training Course can equip you with the knowledge you need to keep your company compliant and ahead of the pack by showing how your organization can become compliant with GDPR. You will learn to redefine the way customer data is collected, processed, stored, and deleted, and how the law will impact your data-driven marketing activities. In addition, the course will help you prepare your marketing and business teams for a changing data protection landscape, and the more prepared they are, the more of an advantage you will have over your competition.

The course is available as either self-paced learning or a corporate training solution and is a must for digital marketers. It consists of four high-quality chapters that explore every practical aspect of GDPR compliance. Once you earn certification, you will be able to confidently handle GDPR certification for your company.
Additionally, if you are working in digital marketing, you should consider boosting your skill set with Simplilearn’s Digital Marketing Specialist masters program. The program will transform you into a complete digital marketer with expertise in the top eight digital marketing domains; search engine optimization, social media, pay-per-click, conversion optimization, digital analytics, content, mobile and email marketing.

Get a head-start on the competition and check out Simplilearn’s courses now!

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