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Top 10 Privacy Compliance Tips for SMEs

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Data privacy is a fundamental building block in all companies. It's essential to take the time now to ensure your company has a firm grasp of data protection legislation at the international, federal, and state levels. Your understanding of data protection laws is essential when your company conducts marketing campaigns to target consumers worldwide. It's also crucial when your company comes up with new technologies that require personal information for new tech products and services available internationally. Your customers, employees, and vendors must feel confident that their personal data can be shared with your organization with trust and confidence.

New Technologies Bring New Data Privacy Issues

Data protection compliance can be challenging in today's digital world. At Digital DNA Belfast, privacy law compliance expert David Cummins said, "We live in an age where privacy data is not protected as well as it could be. Privacy compliance becomes difficult with many new technologies such as mobile applications, drones, and the Internet of Things (IoT)."

What is data privacy?

The definition of data privacy can be quite complex. Generally though, data privacy refers to an individual's right to control information about themselves. It also refers to the protection of personal data or records. This includes collecting and disseminating identified or identifiable information or records. It usually encompasses consumer privacy relating to the personal data of current and potential consumers.

There are many different data protection laws and regulations related to data privacy. The EU GDPR and the California CCPA are two of the most well-known data protection laws, but California's CPRA, Virginia's CDPA, and Colorado's CPA are also coming into effect in 2023. Each country or state has its own interpretation of what data privacy covers. These data privacy laws govern how personal information data is collected, used, and disclosed, whether directly or indirectly. This means that the consumers, employees, or third parties provided their individual consent to your company and that your company lawfully collected it.

What are data privacy rights?

A privacy protection act also creates comprehensive legal rights for individuals concerning their personal data. These rights vary from country to country. They typically include the right to access one's personal data, correct inaccurate data, delete one's data, or even a private right of action. Data privacy law also imposes obligations on organizations that collect, use, or disclose personal data.

What is personal information?

Personal information can include anything from an individual's name and address to their credit card number. When collecting personal information, privacy protection must be the highest priority.

As a subset of personal information, sensitive information can be tricky because it can refer to many things. In general, though, sensitive information is any data that could put someone at risk if released publicly, or even to the wrong person within your organization. This could include social security numbers, gender identification, sexual orientation, racial identity, financial information, or health information.

Sensitive information is becoming more and more critical in our digital age, and it's crucial to know what it is and how to protect it. The collection, right to access, and use of personal information collected must be done in a manner that protects the individual's privacy, and in turn, your business.

Ten Tips To Overcome Data Privacy Issues

Achieving data privacy law compliance at the international, federal, and state levels can seem daunting. However, these top 10 privacy compliance tips should help you ensure consumer, employee, and third-party privacy.

Tip 1: Make privacy compliance part of the culture

Data privacy is a primary concern for data protection compliance. You must be aware that data protection regulations are constantly changing. Therefore, privacy compliance should always be part of your overall data privacy culture. Integrate it into all aspects of your business processes, including staff training. This way, data privacy becomes an essential component in the day-to-day operations of your company.

As a leader of your company, your job is to ensure that your organization's data protection practices comply with privacy laws and regulations, while impeding operations as little as possible. It's a tricky balance: establishing privacy compliance while allowing your organization to collect personal information from third parties such as consumers, vendors, potential applicants, or minors who need parental consent.

The more your team can conceptualize privacy from the beginning, even in small ways, the fewer privacy problems you'll have to deal with.

Tip 2: Know your data; know when you own it and when you don't

Each company carries its own data, so understanding what information is held and where it came from can be essential to understanding who owns it. You can gain comprehensive insight into your data inventory by conducting data mapping of all your personal information or records from individuals or third parties. You must handle such information with care if you have undertaken third-party data collection.

You can secure data protection compliance by prioritizing transparency in your company. Being open about what data you hold, where it comes from, and what you do with it will go a long way towards building customers' trust, as well as avoid legal ramifications.

Tip 3: Control who has access to your company's data

You should understand what types of employees need access to customer, HR, and vendor data, especially if they will handle sensitive information. This will help control the risk of a security data breach and minimize potential damage. Examples include an employee forwarding personal data relating to their contacts or accidentally releasing a customer emailing list externally.

Employees should sign confidentiality agreements that outline their data privacy and data security responsibilities. The employee handbook should include the privacy policy, accessible on your intranet or within the employee onboarding process. Your privacy policy should identify who has access to data based upon job function (i.e., customer service representatives, HR personnel, finance employees). It should create guidelines for employees to follow when using confidential information (i.e., limit personal use of company resources). It should also restrict access to sensitive data through privacy controls (i.e., identify individuals with legitimate reasons to view protected data).

Tip 4: Implement privacy compliance training

Training is essential in helping employees understand what information can be shared with third parties or when it needs to be kept private. This also helps protect your company from privacy complaints and litigation by providing staff with appropriate guidelines on how to handle the sensitive data of third parties. Privacy training raises awareness about privacy laws and issues, so employees feel confident that they understand the legal jargon and how to handle privacy concerns.

The more you educate your team about privacy law and compliance principles, the better they'll be able to identify problems. They will better design effective solutions and implement privacy management programs. Compliance is not just for senior leadership or people working in legal or HR roles. All employees need a basic understanding of good privacy from an organizational perspective to ensure a genuinely holistic privacy culture.

Tip 5: Update privacy policies regularly

Just as privacy laws, regulations, and technologies change, so should privacy policies. You can stay current with privacy compliance by regularly reviewing your comprehensive privacy compliance documentation. This will ensure compatibility with changes in data privacy laws and regulatory compliance requirements for all the information you manage and store in your organization.

Set privacy standards through privacy by design. It significantly simplifies the process. Privacy by design means addressing privacy issues at the beginning of any data collection, system, or business process. In other words, privacy is considered at the start of a project or undertaking, instead of only after your organization has already unlawfully collected or inappropriately used personal data. As the saying goes: Prevention is better than cure.

Tip 6: Conduct regular privacy audits

Before they happen, privacy compliance audits are conducted to identify privacy risks, like data breach risks. They help you understand where your organization's privacy strengths and weaknesses lie. This will help you make changes to ensure compliance with data privacy protection laws and regulations.

You should consider regularly carrying out privacy compliance audits before any significant event (such as launching a new product or service) occurs. This will help you identify gaps in your privacy policy and any potential data breaches or issues that might require attention. It can also help you better understand your customers' opinions on privacy compliance.

You should then use the privacy compliance audit results to identify privacy issues that need improvement or risk mitigation through third-party privacy experts. Before launching a new product, a privacy law expert can perform privacy impact assessments on specific products or services. This assessment will determine what options are available for risk reduction before launch.

Tip 7: Communicate results of privacy audit internally and externally

Once you've completed a privacy compliance audit, it's crucial to communicate the internal and external results. No privacy program will work if it's a secret. You must routinely share privacy standards, privacy management objectives, and privacy law compliance requirements across the entire organization to all employees and other stakeholders, including customers, partners, affiliates, and suppliers.

Additionally, you should publicly disclose your data collection, use, access, and sharing practices to comply with privacy laws and regulations. The more everyone knows about what you know about privacy issues, the fewer problems you'll have along the way.

Tip 8: Take action quickly if there is a privacy breach

The best way to deal with data breaches is to prevent them from happening in the first place. This means conducting privacy compliance audits, having privacy compliance policies, and training employees to be privacy compliant. However, if an incident or breach does occur, you must take action quickly when you receive a data breach notification. After rectifying the initial breach, put steps in place so it doesn't happen again. For example, you can implement a data breach notification process to ensure protection of consumer or employee data.

If you really want to build privacy compliance into your business from the ground up, all customer complaints must be taken seriously. While this may not feel like a privacy compliance issue, it can negatively impact your organization's brand and reputation. This will happen if customers do not trust you because they think you're not taking their privacy concerns seriously.

Tip 9: Privacy compliance is not just about technology

Technology can help you implement privacy solutions, but people are still accountable for making sure that privacy protection tools do what they're supposed to do. For example, data loss prevention and encryption technologies can help establish compliance with privacy regulations and protect privacy rights. But that alone won't stop employees from sharing sensitive personal data inappropriately any more than encryption will prevent all online fraud.

You need a comprehensive privacy program to handle the people aspects both before and after you choose technical privacy solutions. One hard truth is that technology alone cannot guarantee privacy compliance, regardless of how many tools your organization uses.

Tip 10: Be proactive instead of reactive

Privacy compliance isn't just about responding when something goes wrong—it's about thinking ahead so you can identify potential trouble before it happens. Look beyond your own area at how other parts of your company collect, store, use, access, and manage information data protection. Then, set privacy goals and priorities that meet compliance requirements while at the same time helping to reduce privacy risks and protect privacy rights.

Data Privacy is Not an Option and is Everyone's Responsibility

Remember that data privacy compliance isn't optional. Data privacy protection is a legal requirement in many countries worldwide, so everyone in your organization must understand their role in meeting these requirements. Privacy is not just the responsibility of the privacy officer or compliance department. If you need help putting together a privacy management plan in your company, check out our solutions so you can get started right away. We will help ensure you aren't breaking any data protection legislation, risking fines, or damaging your hard-earned reputation.