Share this article
8 Facts about GDPR compliance you need to know
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.
More on automated compliance platforms
Determine whether the GDPR applies to you and if so, if you are a processor or controller (or both)
Do you sell goods or service in the EU or UK?
Do you sell goods or services to EU businesses, consumers, or both?
Do you have employees in the EU or UK?
Do persons from the EU or UK visit your website?
Do you monitor the behavior of persons within the EU?
Create a Data Map by taking the following actions
Identify and document every system (i.e. database, application, or vendor) which stores or processes EU or UK based personally identifiable information (PII)
Document the retention periods for PII in each system
Determine whether you collect, store, or process “special categories” of data
Determine whether your Data Map meets the requirements for Records of Processing Activities (Art. 30)
Determine whether your Data Map includes the following information about processing activities carried out by vendors on your behalf
Determine your grounds for processing data
For each category of data and system/application have you determined the lawful basis for processing based on one of the following conditions?
Take inventory of current customer and vendor contracts to confirm new GDPR-required flow-down provisions are included
Review all customer contracts to determine that they have appropriate contract language (i.e. Data Protection Addendums with Standard Contractual Clauses)
Review all in-scope vendor contracts to determine that they have appropriate contract language (i.e. Data Protection Addendums with Standard Contractual Clauses)
Have you performed a risk assessment on vendors who are processing your PII?
Determine if you need to do a Data Protection Impact Assessment
Is your data processing taking into account the nature, scope, context, and purposes of the processing, likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons?
Review product and service design (including your website or app) to ensure privacy notice links, marketing consents, and other requirements are integrated
Does the notice to the data subject include the following items?
Does the notice also include the following items?
Do you have a mechanism for persons to change or withdraw consent?
Update internal privacy policies to comply with notification obligations
Update internal privacy notices for EU employees
Determine if you need to appoint a Data Protection Officer, and appoint one if needed
Have you determined whether or not you must designate a Data Protection Officer (DPO) based on one of the following conditions (Art. 37)?
If you export data from the EU, consider if you need a compliance mechanism to cover the data transfer, such as model clauses
If you transfer, store, or process data outside the EU or UK, have you identified your legal basis for the data transfer (note: most likely covered by the Standard Contractual Clauses)
Have you performed and documented a Transfer Impact Assessment (TIA)?
Confirm you are complying with other data subject rights (i.e. aside from notification)
Do you have a defined process for timely response to Data Subject Access Requests (DSAR) (i.e. requests for information, modification or deletion of PII)?
Are you able to provide the subject information in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language?
Do you have a process for correcting or deleting data when requested?
Do you have an internal policy regarding a Compelled Disclosure from Law Enforcement?
Determine if you need to appoint an EU-based representative, and appoint one if needed
Have you appointed an EU Representative or determined that an EU Representative is not needed based on one of the following conditions?
If operating in more than one EU state, identify a lead Data Protection Authority (DPA)
Do you operate in more than one EU state?
If so, have you designated the Supervisory Authority of the main establishment to act as your Lead Supervisory Authority?
Implement Employee Trainings to Demonstrate Compliance with GDPR Principles and Data Subject Rights
Have you provided appropriate Security Awareness and Privacy training to your staff?
Update internal procedures and policies to ensure you can comply with data breach response requirements
Have you created and implemented an Incident Response Plan which included procedures for reporting a breach to EU and UK Data Subjects as well as appropriate Data Authorities?
Do breach reporting policies comply with all prescribed timelines and include all recipients i.e. authorities, controllers, and data subjects?
Implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk
Have you implemented encryption of PII at rest and in transit?
Have you implemented pseudonymization?
Have you implemented appropriate physical security controls?
Have you implemented information security policies and procedures?
Can you access EU or UK PII data in the clear?
Do your technical and organizational measure ensure that, by default, only personal data which are necessary for each specific purpose of the processing are processed?
Develop a roadmap for successful implementation of an ISMS and ISO 27001 certification
Implement Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) process to recognize challenges and identify gaps for remediation
Consider ISO 27001 certification costs relative to org size and number of employees
Clearly define scope of work to plan certification time to completion
Select an ISO 27001 auditor
Set the scope of your organization’s ISMS
Decide which business areas are covered by the ISMS and which are out of scope
Consider additional security controls for business processes that are required to pass ISMS-protected information across the trust boundary
Inform stakeholders regarding scope of the ISMS
Establish an ISMS governing body
Build a governance team with management oversight
Incorporate key members of top management, e.g. senior leadership and executive management with responsibility for strategy and resource allocation
Conduct an inventory of information assets
Consider all assets where information is stored, processed, and accessible
- Record information assets: data and people
- Record physical assets: laptops, servers, and physical building locations
- Record intangible assets: intellectual property, brand, and reputation
Assign to each asset a classification and owner responsible for ensuring the asset is appropriately inventoried, classified, protected, and handled
Execute a risk assessment
Establish and document a risk-management framework to ensure consistency
Identify scenarios in which information, systems, or services could be compromised
Determine likelihood or frequency with which these scenarios could occur
Evaluate potential impact of each scenario on confidentiality, integrity, or availability of information, systems, and services
Rank risk scenarios based on overall risk to the organization’s objectives
Develop a risk register
Record and manage your organization’s risks
Summarize each identified risk
Indicate the impact and likelihood of each risk
Document a risk treatment plan
Design a response for each risk (Risk Treatment)
Assign an accountable owner to each identified risk
Assign risk mitigation activity owners
Establish target dates for completion of risk treatment activities
Complete the Statement of Applicability worksheet
Review 114 controls of Annex A of ISO 27001 standard
Select controls to address identified risks
Complete the Statement of Applicability listing all Annex A controls, justifying inclusion or exclusion of each control in the ISMS implementation
Continuously assess and manage risk
Build a framework for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving the ISMS
Include information or references to supporting documentation regarding:
- Information Security Objectives
- Leadership and Commitment
- Roles, Responsibilities, and Authorities
- Approach to Assessing and Treating Risk
- Control of Documented Information
- Internal Audit
- Management Review
- Corrective Action and Continual Improvement
- Policy Violations
Assemble required documents and records
Review ISO 27001 Required Documents and Records list
Customize policy templates with organization-specific policies, process, and language
Establish employee training and awareness programs
Conduct regular trainings to ensure awareness of new policies and procedures
Define expectations for personnel regarding their role in ISMS maintenance
Train personnel on common threats facing your organization and how to respond
Establish disciplinary or sanctions policies or processes for personnel found out of compliance with information security requirements
Perform an internal audit
Allocate internal resources with necessary competencies who are independent of ISMS development and maintenance, or engage an independent third party
Verify conformance with requirements from Annex A deemed applicable in your ISMS's Statement of Applicability
Share internal audit results, including nonconformities, with the ISMS governing body and senior management
Address identified issues before proceeding with the external audit
Undergo external audit of ISMS to obtain ISO 27001 certification
Engage an independent ISO 27001 auditor
Conduct Stage 1 Audit consisting of an extensive documentation review; obtain feedback regarding readiness to move to Stage 2 Audit
Conduct Stage 2 Audit consisting of tests performed on the ISMS to ensure proper design, implementation, and ongoing functionality; evaluate fairness, suitability, and effective implementation and operation of controls
Address any nonconformities
Ensure that all requirements of the ISO 27001 standard are being addressed
Ensure org is following processes that it has specified and documented
Ensure org is upholding contractual requirements with third parties
Address specific nonconformities identified by the ISO 27001 auditor
Receive auditor’s formal validation following resolution of nonconformities
Conduct regular management reviews
Plan reviews at least once per year; consider a quarterly review cycle
Ensure the ISMS and its objectives continue to remain appropriate and effective
Ensure that senior management remains informed
Ensure adjustments to address risks or deficiencies can be promptly implemented
Calendar ISO 27001 audit schedule and surveillance audit schedules
Perform a full ISO 27001 audit once every three years
Prepare to perform surveillance audits in the second and third years of the Certification Cycle
Consider streamlining ISO 27001 certification with automation
Transform manual data collection and observation processes into automated and continuous system monitoring
Identify and close any gaps in ISMS implementation in a timely manner
Download this checklist for easy referenceDownload Now
Determine which annual audits and assessments are required for your company
Perform a readiness assessment and evaluate your security against HIPAA requirements
Review the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights Audit Protocol
Conduct required HIPAA compliance audits and assessments
Perform and document ongoing technical and non-technical evaluations, internally or in partnership with a third-party security and compliance team like Vanta
Document your plans and put them into action
Document every step of building, implementing, and assessing your compliance program
Vanta’s automated compliance reporting can streamline planning and documentation
Appoint a security and compliance point person in your company
Designate an employee as your HIPAA Compliance Officer
Schedule annual HIPAA training for all employees
Distribute HIPAA policies and procedures and ensure staff read and attest to their review
Document employee trainings and other compliance activities
Thoroughly document employee training processes, activities, and attestations
Establish and communicate clear breach report processes
to all employees
Ensure that staff understand what constitutes a HIPAA breach, and how to report a breach
Implement systems to track security incidents, and to document and report all breaches
Institute an annual review process
Annually assess compliance activities against theHIPAA Rules and updates to HIPAA
Continuously assess and manage risk
Build a year-round risk management program and integrate continuous monitoring
Understand the ins and outs of HIPAA compliance— and the costs of noncompliance
Download this checklist for easy referenceDownload Now
FEATURED VANTA RESOURCE
The ultimate guide to scaling your compliance program
Learn how to scale, manage, and optimize alongside your business goals.