Compliance frameworks
The ultimate guide to ISO 27701

The ultimate guide to ISO 27701

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to protecting confidential data (including user data). There are frameworks and standards available to guide you through the best practices one by one. When it comes to privacy, the gold standard is ISO 27701.

Whether you’re pursuing ISO 27701 compliance at the insistence of your clients, to comply with privacy laws, or for your organization’s long-term benefit, this ISO 27701 compliance guide has everything you need to know to get started.

What is ISO 27701?

ISO 27701 is a compliance standard that was developed and released by the International Organization for Standardization or ISO. While the ISO has designed numerous standards across a variety of industries and specialties, ISO 27701 in particular is an extension of one of its most widely used standards: ISO 27001.

If you’re not familiar, ISO 27001 is an internationally recognized standard for securing your information security management system. In other words, following ISO 27001 allows your organization to thoroughly secure data and demonstrate security to clients and business partners.

ISO 27701 is an extension of ISO 27001 that focuses on privacy. While ISO 27001 guides you through constructing and securing your ISMS, ISO 27701 teaches you how to take your ISMS a step further by creating a privacy information management system (PIMS). ISO 27701 hinges on the concept of personally identifiable information (PII) and how to keep user PII private.

What is a PIMS?

A PIMS, or privacy information management system, is the crux of ISO 27701. Think of your PIMS as the internal system of protocols you use to:

  • Collect PII
  • Process PII
  • Store PII
  • Destroy or delete PII

How ISO 27701 defines PII

To understand and follow ISO 27701, you first need to understand what is considered to be PII within the framework of this standard. In general, PII is defined as any information that could be used to identify a user. This includes:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Address
  • Social security number or other identification number
  • Email address
  • IP address
  • Date of birth

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but these are the primary types of data you might collect that could identify a user.

Who should be ISO 27701 compliant?

ISO 27701 is not a law or regulation, so no one is legally required to follow ISO 27701. However, any organization that collects, processes, or stores PII, or has contact with PII in any other way would be well-advised to implement this standard.

ISO 27701 is particularly beneficial for organizations that are legally required to follow certain privacy regulations like GDPR, CCPA, or HIPAA. In fact, ISO 27701 has an annex that directly maps its privacy controls to the various components of GDPR.

What are the benefits of ISO 27701 compliance?

Is it worth your investment to pursue ISO 27701 compliance? Consider whether these advantages will benefit your organization.

Garnering trust and winning business

As you compete for business and partnerships, your PIMS can be an important factor. A recent consumer survey found that 86% of consumers are concerned about their data privacy. ISO 27701 compliance can give you a leg up on the competition because your clients or partners want to be able to ensure their users that they’ve signed on with a privacy-minded vendor. 

If your customers are end users, you can also advertise your ISO 27701 compliance to assure them that their private data is safe. Many consumers won’t be familiar with this standard, but for those who are, or those who look it up, you can become a frontrunner for their business.

Adhering to privacy laws

If your organization collects or has any contact with personal information from EU residents or California residents, or if your operations subject you to HIPAA compliance, you have legal privacy obligations. ISO 27701 can be a vehicle for complying with these critical laws.

These privacy laws are notoriously written in a way that can make it difficult to understand what you do and don’t need to do. ISO 27701 is built around these laws and can give you a more well-constructed path toward becoming and staying legally compliant.

What is ISO 27701 certification and how do I get certified?

To document your ISO 27701 compliance, you can pursue ISO 27701 certification. The certification process involves hiring an external auditor who will assess your privacy controls, confirm that you meet ISO 27701 standards, and then issue a certificate.

Because this standard is supplemental to ISO 27001, you must be ISO 27001 compliant before you can be considered for ISO 27701 certification. You can often hire an auditor to assess your ISO 27001 and ISO 27701 compliance at the same time, but you can’t receive a standalone ISO 27701 certification without ISO 27001 compliance.

While the ISO itself doesn’t conduct audits or issue certifications, it does have a standard that third-party auditors must follow called CASCO. When you’re confident that you’ve implemented all the ISO 27701 requirements, you should hire a CASCO-compliant auditor, and ideally one that is accredited in your country.

How to become ISO 27701 compliant

If you’re interested in pursuing ISO 27701 compliance, Vanta’s automated platform will guide you throughout the entire process. Vanta helps you determine which privacy controls you’ve already implemented and which controls you still need to work on. 

Vanta also provides a centralized place to track all your tasks, follow compliance progress, and document controls. When it’s time for an audit, your auditor can view all your information in one place, leading to a smoother, faster audit. To get a customized view of how Vanta can help you navigate compliance frameworks, sign up for a Vanta demo today.

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