3 Best Practices for Data Privacy

By Natalie Ann Holborow at SureCloud
Published on 22nd April 2024


With more technology comes more data, and with that a greater need for data privacy enforcement. With regulations such as GDPR and CCPA tightening the reins on data protection and the impact of emerging artificial intelligence tools, it’s no longer optional that your business has robust data privacy practices – it’s essential.


So what best practices should you be following to ensure robust data privacy in your organization today?

1. Educate your employees on data privacy best practices

Your employees are your first line of defence against data breaches, but they can also be unwitting accomplices if they’re not adequately trained in data privacy protocols. In a report by ISACA, it’s reassuring to see that 86% of privacy professionals say their organizations provide privacy awareness training, with 71% reporting a positive impact on their organizations as a result.


Providing training is a step in the right direction, but how can we ensure that this training covers everything employees need to know? If you’re yet to provide training or want to refresh your current offering, let’s explore some of the things you should consider.


Embed data privacy practices into day-to-day processes

Firstly, data privacy shouldn’t be an afterthought – instead, it should be ingrained in the fabric of your organization’s culture. 17% of privacy professionals said their organizations did not practice privacy by design when building new applications and services (ISACA), but if you want your processes to be robust, data privacy has to be considered from the outset. This extends into company culture.


Embedding data privacy practices into day-to-day processes for employees requires a comprehensive approach that integrates education, communication and accountability throughout the organization. Start by developing clear and concise data privacy policies that outline the organization’s expectations regarding the handling, storage and protection of sensitive information. These should be easily accessible via the company intranet, employee handbooks and integrated in your training materials to keep this knowledge fresh. This is particularly important when it comes to the onboarding process – from the very first day, emphasize the importance of safeguarding sensitive information and check that new starters know exactly what to do post-induction.


You’ll want to keep your educational resources and simulations simple and easy to follow – remember, complexity breeds confusion and this is where lapses in data security can happen. Use real-world scenarios to illustrate the importance of data privacy and provide clear instructions on how to identify and respond to these scenarios effectively should these happen in day-to-day work.


Incorporate data privacy into job roles and responsibilities

Have you ever attended a training course only to ask: “What was the point?” at the end of it? From the outset, outline how the training will make employees’ jobs easier by teaching them skills relevant to their specific roles. You’ll want to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”


Tailor data privacy training to align with specific job roles and responsibilities within the organization. Employees should understand clearly how data privacy applies to their day-to-day tasks and feel fully equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to do what they need to do effectively. For example, your sales teams may need training on handling customer data securely, while your IT personnel might require more specialized training on cybersecurity protocols.


When it comes to effective workplace learning and engaging your employees, there’s power in personalization.


Foster a culture of accountability and transparency

Do employees understand the role they play in protecting sensitive information? Do they feel comfortable raising concerns or reporting potential security incidents? Encourage open communication channels where employees feel comfortable raising questions, concerns or incidents related to data privacy. One idea is to implement anonymous reporting mechanisms, such as hotlines or suggestion boxes, so your employees can report issues without worrying about being identified.


Remember, leadership plays a crucial role in setting the tone for data privacy within the organization. Leaders and managers should consistently demonstrate how they respect the privacy of employee data, seek appropriate consent before collecting personal information and prioritize data security in their day-to-day operations.

2. Conduct regular assessments of data privacy projects

Data privacy is never a one-and-done endeavour; it requires constant vigilance and assessment to stay ahead of emerging threats and compliance requirements. By regularly assessing your projects, you can help identify potential vulnerabilities, see where there are gaps to address and ensure compliance with regulations.


Identify your data privacy and compliance gaps

By conducting comprehensive assessments of your projects, you can pinpoint any areas of concern early. Identify where sensitive data is stored, who has access to it and how it’s being used. By knowing this information, you’ll be able to prioritize resources and interventions where they’re most needed.


As well as vulnerabilities, you’ll also want to assess your projects for compliance gaps with relevant data privacy regulations. Do data handling processes align with the requirements of GDPR, CCPA or other applicable laws?


According to DLA Piper, nearly €1.1 billion in fines were issued for a wide range of GDPR violations between January 2021 – January 2022. This represents a staggering 594% annual increase in fines. The faster you can identify and remedy your compliance gaps, the better chance you have of avoiding fines, reputational damage and potential legal repercussions.


Monitor and measure success

What does success in data privacy look like to you? Think about your key performance indicators (KPIs) and how these are aligned with your organization’s data privacy objectives. These KPIs could cover areas such as compliance with regulatory requirements, data security incidents and effectiveness of data privacy controls. What’s working and what needs to be improved?


After identifying where your gaps are, you’ll want to assess how well data privacy policies, procedures and regulatory requirements are being adhered to. These audits should evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of data privacy controls and give you insights into how to remediate.


And by continuously tracking and monitoring data security incidents – including breaches, unauthorized access and data leaks – you can gauge how effective your data security measures are. Take time to analyze incident trends and root causes – these are what will help you identify areas for improvement, so you can get the right corrective actions in place.


Dedicated data privacy functionality in GRC software can help here. For example, SureCloud’s Aurora platform allows you to automate key data privacy assessments with built-in workflows, document your data inventory, manage compliance and reporting requirements and respond to subject access requests – all in one platform.


Thanks to plug-and-play pre-built workflows, out-of-the-box question banks and real-time reporting capabilities, data privacy management has never been quicker or easier.

3. Only collect the data you need

The more data you collect, the greater your risk exposure. This is why it’s essential to adopt a minimalist approach to data collection and retention, where you only gather the data necessary for your operations and dispose of it when no longer needed.


Manage your data across its lifecycle

A comprehensive data management strategy should span the entire data lifecycle, from collection to disposal. To achieve this, you’ll need to categorize data based on its sensitivity and establish clear guidelines for its retention and disposal. It’s important to regularly review and update these guidelines to reflect any changing business needs and regulatory requirements.


When we consider that a staggering 94% of organizations say their customers would not buy from them if they did not protect data properly (Cisco), the way you handle data has a significant impact on trust and reputation, which is why it’s key to get it right.


Ask yourself: “Is this data ‘need-to-have’ or ‘nice-to-have’?” If you have a solid use case for it, then keep it, but if you’re unsure then don’t hesitate to conduct a risk-concern analysis to give you the clarity you need. Don’t simply keep the data “just in case” if you’re unsure.


Flag data for secure deletion or archiving

To help you stay on top of any data that’s no longer needed, automation can help you flag data that should be deleted or archived based on predefined rules. By doing this, you can ensure that any obsolete or unnecessary data doesn’t linger in your systems and pose a potential security risk. It’s key that you have strict protocols here for data deletion – this will help prevent unauthorized access or accidental exposure.


For example, a medium-sized marketing firm will likely be collecting and processing customer data such as email addresses for various campaigns. To ensure compliance with data privacy regulations such as GDPR and minimize the risk of data breaches, the firm can implement a data management system that employees can use to flag any data that needs deleting or archiving (and avoid sending out emails to contacts who do not wish for their data to be held).

In conclusion...

Data privacy is never a one-size-fits all proposition – it requires a multi-faceted approach that encompasses education, assessment and robust data management practices. By prioritizing the three best practices described above, you can minimize the risk of data breaches and safeguard the privacy of your customers.


Because when it comes to data privacy, trust matters.

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