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Guide: How to Achieve GDPR Compliance & Certification

By: Frank Kyazze |  December 1, 2023

TL;DR

The process of achieving GDPR certification enables businesses and individuals to provide proof of their GDPR compliance through certification from a body approved by the European Data Protection Board. Failure to comply with GDPR can lead to severe penalties of up to €20 million or 4% of the previous financial year’s annual revenue, whichever amount is larger.

GDPR certification safeguards against data loss incidents that may occur due to cybercrime, vandalism, terrorism, power outages, or natural disasters. Preparing your cloud-based company for GDPR data protection regulation marks the initial step towards satisfying GDPR obligations. However, the journey to become GDPR-compliant can be complex, time-consuming, and costly.

Introduction

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mandates the most stringent privacy policies and security laws globally. Regardless of their location, all cloud-based companies are obliged to comply with GDPR if they engage in business with EU citizens.

The path to full compliance can be intricate and challenging. After the enforcement of GDPR, businesses worldwide have made significant progress towards compliance. However, a survey by Thomson Reuters revealed that 66% of global companies find GDPR compliance difficult, despite 91% being aware of the regulation.

GDPR certification is a powerful tool to assure your national supervisory authority, EU, and customers that your organization has taken all necessary technical and organizational measures to fulfill GDPR requirements.

GDPR Certification: What is it?

GDPR certification is an aspect of the regulation that allows organizations or individuals to earn certification from approved accreditation bodies, demonstrating their GDPR compliance to customers and the EU.

Notably, certification from these bodies is not a conclusive validation of GDPR compliance. Instead, it assists cloud-based companies in showcasing their commitment to achieving full GDPR compliance by allocating resources and efforts accordingly.

Why is GDPR Compliance Crucial?

GDPR compliance is essential for any cloud-based company conducting business with EU citizens or operating within the EU. It guarantees enhanced data protection and privacy for employees, customers, and third parties in the EU.

Non-compliance with GDPR can lead to substantial fines. Minor offenses can result in a penalty of €10 million or 2% of the previous financial year’s annual revenue, whichever is higher. Serious infringements may attract a fine of €20 million or 4% of a company’s previous financial year’s annual revenue, whichever is greater.

Furthermore, GDPR compliance helps protect against data loss arising from external events such as cybercrime, natural disasters, or vandalism.

Steps to Achieving GDPR Compliance

GDPR compliance requires a comprehensive approach from cloud-based companies. The process involves more than simply adjusting your privacy policy and investing in new technologies.

The steps to achieve GDPR compliance include:

1. Preparing for GDPR Certification:

  • Initiate by developing a comprehensive plan for implementing your GDPR obligations. This process should involve all relevant stakeholders and include a readiness assessment to identify the tasks you need to complete before embarking on the journey towards GDPR certification. Understanding the scope, responsibilities, and resources required is essential at this stage.

2. Defining Your Personal Data Protection Policy:

  • A crucial part of becoming GDPR compliant involves defining an internal data protection policy that aligns with GDPR requirements. This policy should cover all aspects of data handling, including collection, processing, storage, and deletion. The policy should also incorporate top-level policies like the Data Retention Policy. A crucial part of this step involves GDPR training courses to educate employees on the core GDPR principles and procedures.

3. Creating a List of Processing Activities:

  • Under GDPR, organizations must keep a record of their data processing activities. It’s essential to create a comprehensive list outlining the types of personal data you process, the purposes of the processing, the categories of data subjects, any third-party recipients of the data, and details about data transfers outside the EU, if any.

4. Designing a Process to Manage Data Subject Rights:

  • GDPR enhances the rights of data subjects, such as the right to access, rectify, erase, and port their data, as well as object to data processing. Your organization must implement mechanisms to respond efficiently and timely to data subject requests concerning these rights.

5. Implementing a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA):

  • A DPIA is a process that helps organizations identify and minimize the data protection risks of a project. Before initiating a project that involves processing personal data, the DPO should conduct a DPIA to evaluate how these processes could impact the privacy of individuals.

6. Securing Personal Data Transfers:

  • If your company transfers personal data outside the EU, you must ensure these transfers comply with GDPR. This typically involves using standard contractual clauses, binding corporate rules, or other legal mechanisms to ensure an adequate level of data protection.

7. Amending Third-Party Contracts:

  • Review and revise all third-party contracts involving personal data processing to ensure they meet GDPR requirements. This includes clauses about data subjects’ rights, data security, and responsibilities in case of a data breach.

8. Securing Sensitive Personal Data:

  • Take measures to ensure that personal data is securely stored and processed. This could involve an information security policy, using encryption and pseudonymization where appropriate, and implementing technical controls like those given by Cyber Essentials.

9. Developing a Process to Handle Data Breaches:

  • Finally, under the GDPR, data breaches must be reported to the relevant data protection authority within 72 hours of discovery. Your company must establish protocols for detecting and responding to personal data breaches, notifying the supervisory authority, and if necessary, the affected data subjects.

Notable GDPR accreditation bodies include:

  • The European Privacy Seal (EuroPriSe)

  • TRUSTe, among others

  • EIPACC DATA PROTECTION CERTIFICATION STANDARD CS-21000:2021

In conclusion, achieving GDPR compliance is not only a matter of legal obligation but also a badge of credibility, showcasing your commitment to data privacy and protection. However, it is a complex and demanding journey. That’s where we come in. At SPC, we offer an initial free assessment of your GDPR compliance status. Our team of professionals will guide you through every step, from understanding your unique requirements to implementing robust data protection strategies. Avoid potential hefty fines and protect your reputation by investing in your GDPR compliance today. Don’t wait, reach out to us for your free assessment, and take the first step towards achieving GDPR certification.

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