Customers today are more aware and concerned about data privacy than ever. They like to know how their data is used and wish to have a choice of consent for allowing businesses to use or store their data.
The GDPR protects customers’ data privacy rights in EU countries and includes a number of rules and regulations that organizations must comply with. There’s a special regulation called Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) mandated under Article 35 of the GDPR, which is applicable for new projects involving high-privacy risk activities.
Performing DPIA is one of the sure-shot ways for an organization to imply that they follow GDPR compliance laws. It’s not a one-step process but is carried out in multiple stages that help the organization assess the complete risk exposure for their confidential data.
This article explores seven steps for conducting a successful DPIA and minimizing privacy risks.
What is DPIA
To understand what is DPIA, first, you need to know what constitutes sensitive customer data and why they’re at high risk. Sensitive data includes any information customers knowingly or unknowingly share with brands, including their personal and financial details, email ids, social media information, or anything they won’t share with a stranger.
When a fraudster gets access to this data, they tend to indulge in scams and frauds by stealing the customers’ identification for illegal activities or stealing money from their bank accounts.
DPIA helps uncover the loose ends in the design stage of a business. The assessment is particularly performed in activities where new technologies are implemented, and personal data is used at scale.
The GDPR requires organizations to carry out a DPIA if they intend to process any sensitive personal information (e.g., medical records), regardless of how the processing will occur and whether it is temporary or permanent. It also requires an assessment of the risk posed by processing sensitive personal data stored by an organization.
Note that DPIA must be carried out by an external consultant independent of the organization performing the assessment. They must have worked with similar projects before and within the same industry sector as your organization.
Steps to successfully perform DPIA in your organization
To assist organizations in performing DPIA and maintaining compliance, GPPR has prepared a DPIA template that guides them through the seven steps to perform it. It helps you understand a series of factors you need to consider to assess your scope of data processing and how you can effectively plan data protection.
We’ve broken down the steps into seven actionable insights you can start implementing right away.
1. Assess the need for DPIA
Determine which aspects of your business may impact individuals’ rights. DPIA is generally mandatory in the following cases:
- If you’re introducing new technologies to automate an existing process
- If you’re using artificial intelligence technology for analysis and other business operations
- If you’re tracking customers’ behavior and online activities (usually applicable for marketing personnel)
- If there’s sensitive data (racial, political, religious, or philosophical) involved in your project
- If you’re dealing with children’s data
- If you’re monitoring publicly accessible data on a large scale
Assess if there’s a possibility that individuals may suffer harm from processing activities that are not justified.
For example, some industries, such as financial services, heavily rely on automated decision-making systems making decisions solely based on preset criteria without taking human input into account. However, these systems often do not consider all relevant factors before reaching their conclusions which may result in GDPA non-compliance in some ways.
2. Outline the nature, scope, context, and purpose of data processing
In this step, you’ll need to describe how data is processed in your organization and what purpose you need to process the personal data for.
Here are the factors this description must highlight:
This tells what you plan to do with the personal data—whether you plan to store it, delete it after use, share it with a third-party source, or modify it.
It also highlights the following:
- How is the data stored and collected?
- Who has access to it?
- How long will you retain it?
- What security measures you’re taking to protect the data?
- Do you use any data processors?
It outlines what part of the data will be covered by the processing and the duration of processing. Moreover, you’re required to share the frequency of data processing and the data points involved.
This section highlights your relationship with the individuals and the factors (internal or external) that may impact the expectations.
Here, you need to explain the reason you’re processing the data and how it benefits you, the individual, or society in general.
GDPR encourages and mandates organizations to involve their stakeholders in data processing. In the DPIA document, you’re required to describe the circumstances under which you’ll seek individuals’ views. In case you’re not consulting them, justify with a reason why you don’t feel it’s appropriate.
Besides this information, consider this:
- Who else are you involved in this activity from your organization?
- Do you involve any processors in this?
- Are you going to consult any information security officers?
Note that, regardless of stakeholders’ views, if you decide to go against their decision, you need to mention that in the document. Explain your decision, present your arguments and show data and proof, if necessary, to get the ball in your court.
4. Assess necessity and proportionality
Assess the lawfulness of data processing and showcase that you’re only a certain category of personal data for processing—only relevant and absolutely necessary data for the purpose.
Moreover, you must outline the following points:
- How do you ensure compliance
- How do you measure the lawfulness
- What’s your security level for international transactions?
- How do you ensure data quality?
- How do you educate individuals about data privacy?
- Your plan to prevent function creep
- Have you considered any workarounds for data processing?
- Is data processing really effective for you?
5. Identify and assess risks
This step involves assessing the privacy risks and considering what you can afford to lose and who would be affected by a breach.
Think about the kind of data that might be at risk, how sensitive it is and whether it would harm anyone if it was compromised. It also helps you determine the effort required to mitigate any potential damage from a breach.
Assess them based on their risk severity, vulnerability, and likelihood, and determine how they could impact your business operations. Assess what sensitive data points you have in the personal data bank and in which areas you lack the security to protect this information against theft or loss.
Lastly, identify improvements needed within your organization to meet the required standards when processing personal data per GDPR requirements. Moreover, ensure that all staff members are adequately trained on these issues.
6. Mitigate risks
Mitigation is the process of reducing risk, and it’s something you’ll want to do before you even start to protect and process your data.
Here are some tips for mitigating risks:
- Keep track of who has access to what information. Ensure all employees have read-only profiles on their work computers and use password protection software when at home or on personal devices.
- Use two-factor authentication whenever possible (for example, via text message). This will help ensure that only authorized people can log in with their credentials. However, if someone does manage to breach security by hacking into a user’s account, they won’t be able to access all of the data at once, and you’ll be alerted immediately.
- Limit the time employees spend browsing Facebook, other social media sites, or untrusted websites while on company business. This prevents them from duping others into giving up sensitive information about themselves or their work through careless mistakes.
- Anonymize data to restrict untrusted sources from accessing it.
7. Record outcomes of DPIA
The DPIA documentation should include a description of the processing, the type of personal data processed, the individuals’ categories, and the recipients’ categories. It also includes a description of the proposed measures to mitigate risks and any other information relevant to an assessment by an EU Data Protection Officer (DPO).
Moreover, record any additional measures you’ll be taking and whether you’ll consult a security officer. Showcase the status of each risk you’ve identified so far—whether they’re addressed, reduced, or eliminated completely. Also, mention the residual risk after conducting the assessment.
It’s advised that you review and update the documentation whenever necessary.
Eliminate data privacy risks with DPIA
DPIA not only helps build privacy into new products and features from day one but also protects data that’s already stored in your systems. Ideally, it’s best practice to conduct DPIA before and during the planning stages to enforce high data security in your project.
It helps safeguard data before it ever leaves your organization’s systems—or is even involved in any kind of transaction. As a result, you create an atmosphere of ethics and moral conduct within your organization while offering security to your customers.