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3 Reasons Why You Need A Privacy Impact Assessment

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Privacy has become a primary concern worldwide as our lives move increasingly online. In response, many countries have enacted laws and regulations to protect the privacy of their citizens. For companies operating across states or cross-border extending to other countries, privacy compliance can present a challenge, as they must comply with various privacy regimes.

One way to help mitigate this risk is to conduct a privacy impact assessment (PIA). It’s one of the vital components of a robust privacy management program. Conducting a PIA is fundamental to ensuring an organization adheres to all applicable privacy laws and regulations. Unfortunately, 90% of SMEs and startups don’t prioritize privacy compliance. Given emerging global privacy laws and regulations, SMEs and startups that don’t prioritize privacy compliance do so at their peril.

What’s a PIA?

A PIA is a tool required whenever your business collects, uses, or shares an individual’s personal data. It helps your organization anticipate privacy risks before using, storing, or sharing personal data. Before your organization starts any project, program, or initiative, it must be determined whether a PIA needs to be conducted. Please note that a project, program, or initiative dealing with personal information will likely require a PIA, so ensure that you have them assessed individually before launch.

The PIA process involves documenting privacy risks and mitigating them by applying controls. The mitigation measures you pursue will vary depending on your organization’s industry, infrastructure, and resources. For example, one step might include locking down network ports so that authorized users and software applications can only access them. Another measure is implementing employee privacy training and prioritizing a privacy-first culture in your organization.

What’s the purpose of a PIA?

A PIA aims to understand how personal information flows through your organization. It identifies and reduces potential privacy and security risks before designing, developing, or implementing a project or initiative. Conducting a PIA will allow your organization to develop mitigation strategies before problems occur. This is more proactive than trying to fix issues after so much time, and money has been spent on your project or initiative. 

A PIA also helps ensure adequate controls are in place before a project or initiative goes live. These controls can include training of staff, password policies, security clearances, encryption protocols, and other methods for managing data privacy concerns.

Pursuant to ensuring Privacy By Design, a PIA ascertains that privacy protections are built into your business processes, practices, and systems at the very start. It highlights risks with any data collection or processing you’re undertaking that you may not have known nor considered before the beginning of your project or initiative.

3 Reasons Why You Need A PIA

First, it can help you comply with regulations.

Current and emerging privacy laws, such as the EU GDPR and the various state laws of California, Virginia, and Colorado require that organizations regularly conduct a PIA around how they are processing personal data. Thus, if you want to ensure privacy compliance for a new project, you need to complete a PIA to help you to identify and mitigate any potential privacy risks associated with the project. Without a PIA, it will be difficult for you to ensure that the project complies with all privacy laws and regulations. Therefore, conduct a PIA before implementing any new project to avoid potential privacy violations.

Second, it can help you protect consumer privacy.

As privacy concerns become more prevalent, your organization needs to take steps to protect customer data. A PIA can help you understand how your customers might react to changes in your policies or practices. By taking the time to conduct a PIA, you can make better decisions about how to protect your customers’ privacy at an early stage before they become privacy problems. You can show your commitment to protecting the privacy of your customers and build trust with them. A well-executed PIA will help minimize privacy risks, ultimately leading to better protection of personally identifiable information for all your customers.

Third, it can help protect your company from lawsuits.

PIAs can help protect your organization from liabilities and lawsuits by demonstrating that you’ve taken reasonable steps to safeguard consumer data. Not conducting a PIA before implementation is a considerable risk - if privacy is compromised, you could face legal action from individuals and damage your organization’s reputation. The fines and penalties for privacy violations can be significant, so it’s worth doing a PIA upfront. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to privacy. As privacy regulations continue to grow, conducting a PIA is now an essential part of doing business.

How To Conduct a PIA

The PIA process comprises five phases that help mitigate privacy risks before, during, and after data is processed within an organization’s systems.

  • Discovery - involves identifying all the personal data that’s being collected, shared, and stored and how all data flows within and throughout your organization.
  • Analysis - involves closely examining how personal data is processed, stored, and transmitted. By doing this, you can identify any privacy risks that may exist.
  • Recommendations - involves proposing privacy controls and risk management measures that can be implemented to mitigate privacy risks.
  • Implementation - involves developing privacy methods that will reduce privacy risks and help build privacy into your organization’s project design, development, and deployment processes.
  • Monitoring - involves continuous review to reassess privacy risks during and after implementation.

Once the privacy impact assessment is complete, you should understand how your organization processes personal data and what privacy risks may exist. This will allow you to make informed decisions about how to protect consumer privacy.

The PIA must be up to date. This will ensure that it will address any changes made to the project or initiative over its life cycle. As new issues may arise as technology evolves, updates must always be made to the PIAs and those technology updates. The PIA should be conducted by an objective third party to ensure all the privacy risks are thoroughly considered at every step of the way without any conflict of interest.

A PIA can help your organization comply with regulations, protect consumer data, and avoid lawsuits. If you’re ready to start conducting a PIA for your business, we can help. Our global team of privacy experts has the experience and knowledge to help you get started quickly and efficiently. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with safeguarding your consumers’ data and achieving customer success.