The General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) have been enshrined in EU and UK law since 2018, when previous data protection laws across the EU were reformed to create a consistent and comprehensive approach to data security.
These regulations were set up with the intent to protect the personal information of the general public and ensure that companies use and share personal data in an ethical and secure manner.
The GDPR strikes a delicate balance between protecting data and enabling companies to operate effectively. Under GDPR laws, the collection of data can be considered a ‘legitimate interest’ for many reasons and can be flexible according to the requirements of the business in question.
At the same time, businesses can only collect data for the stated purpose, and data must be stored securely and protected against ‘unauthorised or unlawful processing’ to protect the rights of the customer.
Under the GDPR, customers have the right to be fully informed regarding the purposes for which their data will be used, and have the right to request access to their data through a Subject Access Request (SAR), or to withdraw consent for their data to be used at any time.
Business data protection is essential for achieving compliance with data protection rules and legislation; it also protects your business interests by ensuring that sensitive company information is kept secure, reducing the risk and impact of issues like corporate espionage and data leaks.
As such, following GDPR regulations is a crucial step towards building a professional business with which your customers can feel safe entrusting their data.
And while issues of compliance may seem dull and technical, not engaging with them can cost your business money! So it is well worth ensuring that you’re up to date with all the relevant regulations.
The Consequences Of Poor Data Protection
If your customers’ data is not protected effectively, there could be serious consequences for your company, including:
- Damage To Your Company’s Reputation – If data is leaked to a competitor, or a customer discovers their data has been used or processed in an illegitimate manner, this could seriously damage your company’s reputation, resulting in lost revenue, and deterring new customers
- Customer Database – If your company loses access to your customer database, you may be left without the personal data required for essential marketing tasks
- Online Data Breaches – Computer malware has the capacity to erase data and transmit it across the internet, and ransomware can even hold your data for ransom until you pay to get it back
- Fines And Penalties – Companies may incur significant fines and penalties as a result of poor data protection. As GDPR is covered in both EU and UK law, breaches of GDPR may result in fines from both the UK government and the EU. Under the EU GDPR, the Information Commissioner can impose fines of up to €20m or 4% of the annual turnover, whichever is the greater sum. Breaches of the UK GDPR can result in fines of up to £17.5 million. Significant breaches may even result in prison sentences for company directors
- Corporate Espionage/Sabotage – If a disgruntled employee or a corporate spy accesses your personal database, they may use this information to leak to a competitor or attack your business’ reputation
What Is Considered Personal Data?
- Home addresses
- Contact numbers
- Personal email addresses
- Personal IP addresses
- Personal email addresses
- Racial or ethnic status
- Political opinions
- Religious beliefs
- Sexual information
- Physical or mental health information
- Trade union membership
- Criminal history
The Seven Principles Of Data Protection
Under the GDPR, data must be collected, processed, stored and distributed according to the seven principles of data protection. These regulations apply to residents of the EU and the UK.
- Lawfulness, fairness and transparency – Businesses are responsible for informing the consumer of why their data is being collected, and how it will be processed, in a transparent and clear manner. This includes ensuring that this information is easily accessible to all consumers.
- Purpose limitation – Data must only be used for the express purpose stated to the customer at the time of collection.
- Data minimisation – Companies must only collect the minimum data required for the stated purpose.
- Accuracy – Personal data must be accurate and kept up to date.
- Storage limitation – Personal data must only be kept for the period of time explicitly disclosed to the consumer; this data must not be kept longer than it is strictly necessary.
- Integrity and confidentiality – Data must be collected and stored securely and confidentially.
- Accountability – The data controller bears the responsibility for evidencing GDPR compliance in accordance with the principles.
In practical terms, conforming to the Seven Principles Of Data Protection includes:
- Ensuring that you have a legal basis to use personal data. Appropriate legal bases for using personal data include consent, contractual, or legal obligations
- Informing customers of what data your company collects and stores, how this data is used, and allowing them to view or withdraw their data when requested
- Informing customers of their rights under the GDPR and enabling them to exercise these rights by making all information clear and accessible
- Keeping data secure and up to date
- Only using data for the stated purpose, or for purposes related to the stated purpose
- Keeping information for only the minimum amount of time required to complete the stated purpose
- Documenting every instance of processing, storage, use, and sharing of personal data
- Apply data protection standards to all projects involving the use of personal data
- Enforcing good data protection standards in all areas of business, including training
The Importance Of Being Compliant
While data compliance may seem like a dry topic, it is a crucial one, and the consequences of not being compliant can be severe. So make sure that your business is properly addressing this area!
This is true for companies of all sizes – particularly with regards to GDPR, where the fines levied will depend on the size of your business; and the bigger you are, the more you will have to pay if you’re found to be breaching regulations.