8 Facts About GDPR Compliance You Need to Know

September 28, 2021

Doing business online became a lot more complicated starting in 2018 when the European Union’s new GDPR regulations went into effect. GDPR compliance is a critical requirement that carries heavy penalties if you don’t do your due diligence. Are you up to speed on everything you need to know? Find out the eight essential facts about GDPR that you need to know.

What Is GDPR compliance?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation. This is a legal act that the European Union adopted in 2016, with the act taking full effect in 2018. In a nutshell, the GDPR is a set of standards and requirements that all companies must follow if they collect or process data from users in the European Union. It’s designed to protect the privacy and data security of all EU residents.

Top facts to know about GDPR compliance

To protect your customers’ rights and protect your business from the steep penalties of GDPR non-compliance, the first step to take is to get informed. Start with these important facts.

1. The GDPR requirements don’t only apply to EU sites

One of the most damaging misconceptions companies make is that because they aren’t based in the EU, the GDPR requirements don’t apply to them. That’s not true.

GDPR regulations follow the user, not the company. In other words, if you ever have EU-based users on your website and you’re collecting or processing data from them, you’re required by law to comply with the EU GDPR requirements.

2. The GDPR requirements don’t only apply to EU citizens

Yes, the GDPR requirements were put in place to protect EU citizens, however it doesn’t only protect them. GDPR protects any cardholder who does business within the EU. For instance, if an American citizen travels to France, their rights, treatment, and data must comply with the GDPR while they are in the country.

3. The GDPR focuses on an “opt-in” model of data collection

Before the GDPR, when you visited a website, you gave your implied consent to the company to collect your data and use it in any way you see fit. Websites would have an opt-out choice available, but you automatically opted in unless you specifically chose to opt out.

The GDPR flips it. For any user in the EU, when they visit a site, they are automatically “opted out” until they give their specific consent to opt in. Instead of assuming you’ve consented until you say otherwise, the GDPR assumes you haven’t consented until you say otherwise.

4. GDPR outlines essential rights of web users

When you think of GDPR compliance, you think of the steps you need to take to make your business compliant. But it’s important to first understand the core of the regulation: the rights that it guarantees to anyone in the EU. Specifically, the GDPR outlines eight rights that users have:

  • The right to information - Users have the right to give informed consent before their data is collected, stored, or processed.
  • The right to access - Users have the right to access their personal data that you have. They can ask about what data you collect as well as how it’s stored, used, processed, and so on, and you are required to provide them with that information promptly.
  • The right to rectification - Users can request that you correct, supplement, or update any of their personal information.
  • The right to erasure - Users can choose to have you delete their data if they are no longer customers or if they choose to withdraw their consent.
  • The right to restrict processing - Users may tell you to stop processing their data or stop processing it in a specific way.
  • The right to data portability - Users have the right to transfer their personal data that you have collected to another service provider if they choose, and you must be able to transfer it in a format that is commonly used.
  • The right to object - Users can request that you stop using or processing their data and if they do, you must stop.
  • The right to avoid automated decision-making - Users have the right to be free from any automated decision-making, such as profiling them for your marketing purposes. If you use automated decision-making, you must comply with any requests that users make to be exempt.

Understanding these eight rights gives you a foundation for understanding the GDPR as a whole and why it sets the regulations that it does.

5. GDPR regulations apply to nearly all personal data

When you’re doing business online, there are different types of regulations that apply to specific kinds of customer data. For example, PCI DSS outlines standards for handling cardholder information, while HIPAA is all about protected health information. GDPR, on the other hand, is unique because it applies to just about everything.

The GDPR guidelines apply to any personal information like name and date of birth, as well as web data like IP address and cookies, payment information, political stances, demographic information, health information, and more. It even affects user-generated content like photos users post.

6. Non-EU companies need an EU representative for GDPR compliance

The EU requires that every company complying with GDPR has a representative who is present in the EU so they can easily get in touch with the authorities (and vice versa). For the purposes of GDPR compliance in the US or other non-EU countries, if you don’t have an employee or other representative in the EU, there are services you can use to “hire” a representative.

7. GDPR non-compliance comes with serious consequences

Every set of security standards is unique in the way it’s enforced, and many are simply industry standards that establish trust between you and your partners. The GDPR, on the other hand, is a legal requirement, and it’s enforced with severe fines if your GDPR compliance isn’t up to snuff.

There is a tier system for penalties, depending on how severe your compliance breach is. For the highest tier, you could be fined up to 4% of your global turnover or €20 million, whichever number is higher.

8. You don’t need to manage your GDPR compliance single-handedly

Getting a handle on the basic facts about the GDPR is important for any business, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the idea of getting into compliance and documenting your compliance.

Fortunately, you don’t have to figure that out on your own. There are automated platforms that can scan your website and your data security system to check for all the essential GDPR compliance requirements. You’ll get a clear list of which requirements you’ve met and which you still need to implement so you can streamline the process.

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“Vanta's expert team helped analyze our compliance requirements and shared what was needed to complete a SAQ-D. Because of this, we accelerated our timelines, saved hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in costs.”

Klas Hesselman
Co-founder  |  Flow Networks
Vanta automates security compliance.
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