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The New EU General Data
Protection Regulation:
A Strict Legal Framework
for Digital Privacy
After nearly four years of negotiations, European Union officials have finally
reached agreement on a pan-European digital privacy law that, once approved by
the European Parliament and EU governments, will go into effect in 2018. This new
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) creates a strict legal framework for how
companies can use personal information collected online.
This is serious business for any organisation that collects personal data in the EU.
The GDPR substantially increases penalties for privacy violations to as much as 4%
of a company’s global revenue.
With stakes this high, it’s important for corporate executives whose companies collect
and store personal information within the EU to make sure they are apprised of the
key elements of this new law so they are prepared to be fully compliant as soon as the
GDPR takes effect.

There are a number of data management steps that should
be followed, each of which is made much easier for EU
companies by leading-edge software tools that can
be put to work in this effort.

A GDPR Overview
The new law will replace a patchwork of 28 different sets of national privacy laws
by creating a single set of rules for the protection of data within the EU. This
consolidation to one national privacy regulator should lighten the administrative
burden on companies as they’ll be able to conduct business across the entire EU
without having to monitor compliance with multiple autonomous privacy laws.
At the same time, the GDPR sets the privacy bar quite high, placing extensive limits
around how businesses must treat personal data and requiring consistent privacy
monitoring controls. The goal of EU regulators is to become a model for the rest of
the world by creating a regulatory environment in which businesses can flourish while
fiercely protecting individual privacy.

There are six key components of the GDPR that European
corporate executives need to understand:

Data Management Steps to Prepare for GDPR

1. Broader concept of “personal data”
The definition of “personal data” has been widely expanded
to include information related to a data subject’s physical,
physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social
identity. This is going to require a rethink of most organisations’
previous data privacy policies.

In the months leading up to the implementation of the GDPR,
corporate executives will have a lengthy list of operational,
staffing and cultural changes to make in order for them to be
compliant with the new regulations. Those compliance steps are
already being well documented and there will no doubt be many
professionals rushing to assist companies with these important
organisational changes.

2. Notifications for data breaches
The GDPR establishes a uniform data breach notification
requirement: in the event of a data breach leading to the
loss, access or disclosure of personal data, organisations must
notify regulators “without undue delay” and—unless the data
is encrypted or the individuals involved will be harmed—they
must do so within 72 hours.

Meanwhile, the implementation of the new regulation will also
require companies to take some important actions with respect
to how data is managed in their organisations. In fact, as industry
experts such as Marcus Evans have noted, most businesses will
need to make at least modest changes to their data processing
practices to meet the requirements of the GDPR; many will
have to make extensive changes to be in compliance.

3. D
 ata transfer rules
Data transfer out of the EU will only be allowed if the European
Commission has evaluated the level of data protection in the
country where the data is being transferred and has affirmed
that it is acceptable.

There are a number of data management steps that should be
followed, each of which is made much easier for EU companies by
leading-edge software tools that can be put to work in this effort.

4. Consent rules
Under the GDPR, consent must be freely given, specific and
informed. Any organisation collecting personal data must be
clear that the individual providing that information is making a
clear and unambiguous decision that they’re entering into an
agreement for the organisation to collect and process that data.
5. Data Protection Officer
If a company consistently monitors or processes sensitive
personal data—regardless of where that data is processed
in the world—they will have to appoint a Data Protection
Officer who has appropriate data protection law expertise.
The data protection officer may be employed by the company
or be engaged with a service contract, but either way that
professional’s tasks must include advising the company on
data protection issues, monitoring compliance with the
GDPR and acting as the point of contact for regulators.
6. Enforcement
The GDPR gives individual consumers a private right of action
in EU courts, which means they have a right to seek financial
damages for any harm caused by the processing of personal
data. Meanwhile, regulators have been empowered to issue
opinions, adopt binding decisions and otherwise oversee data
protection processes to ensure compliance by organisations.
The power to assess fines is alarming—up to 4% of worldwide
corporate revenues is astounding—although the GDPR
makes it clear that the amount of the fine will depend on
several factors such as the nature, gravity and duration of
the infringement.

Locate the Data
Identifying electronically stored information of relevance
within an enterprise is nothing new, but being confident that
you understand where data is has never been more important.
Therefore, searching for and locating data of relevance against
a backdrop of information governance is a good place to focus.
For example, it’s important to understand the data within the
organisation by knowing the range of data formats that contain
personal information (e.g., multimedia files, metadata associated
with image files, etc.). Moreover, in order to keep pace with this
expanded range of data structure, search capabilities need to be
advanced in order to accurately find the data that falls within the
scope of the GDPR.
Define Access
One of the key attributes of the GDPR is to encourage a “high
standard of protection” for personal data and for this standard to
be maintained across the enterprise, which includes third parties
and operations in other countries. With respect to the GDPR,
these points of access are defined by their physical location,
rather than virtual data locations. This includes third-party data
controllers as well as third parties that are merely processors of
data. It’s also important to consider that the rise in mobility and
mobile applications is becoming more predominant in Internet
usage, so understanding and defining access requires a special
consideration of mobile technology. A structured data audit
plan—together with good compliance monitoring—will allow
the organisation to clearly define and visualize access.

Understand the Framework
It’s crucial to understand the legal framework in order to shape
data management policy. The GDPR is essentially the final
regulation that formalizes an earlier EU data protection directive.
One key aspect of this is that the GDPR aims to introduce
Binding Corporate Rules. These can be repeatedly used for the
exchange and control of data across different jurisdictions within
the EU and externally, enabling governance and policies to be
written once and assessed within a single country of residence.
For example, data must be collected in a forensically sound
manner with best practices and reliable software tools. Also,
in the event of a litigation review, data must be properly shared
with individuals, critical staff members, attorneys and appropriate
Know the Security Risks
Any organisation that has been victimized by a data breach or
other cybersecurity problem can point to at least two major
security risks related to their management of personal data:
liability associated with loss of that data and damage to the
corporate brand as a result. When we talk about knowing the
security risks, what EU companies really need to understand are
the threats associated with these risks versus how their controls
and measures are performing; the combination of these two
factors gives the ability to quantify risk and identify areas for
improvement and investment. A thorough data compliance
audit is the first step toward quantifying that risk and building
a proactive security culture within the business.

Assess the Future
Keeping pace and planning for the future in a world that is
rapidly evolving—such as the migration to storing data in the
cloud—drives a different level of interaction between executives,
internal data management teams and outside service providers.
An effective plan for data management under the GDPR needs
to anticipate what is around the corner by considering what the
future of personal data will entail. Technology is also changing
rapidly, so it’s important to choose IT partners very wisely and
work with them to provide guidance on product roadmaps that will
meet the needs of the future. Also, start data mapping as soon as
possible so that flowchart can be used to guide a long-term data
management strategy that is fully compliant with the GDPR.

The new GDPR was four long years in the making, but it appears
that EU officials have now settled on the final language for a
sweeping digital privacy law that will be in place in 2018. For all
organisations collecting personal data online from individuals
within the EU, the new legal framework will be strict and
failure to comply will expose a company to draconian financial
It’s important that EU corporate executives begin the important
preparatory work now to make sure their companies are ready for
this landmark regulation to go into effect.

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