Over the last 18 months, it’s clear that the European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has contributed towards the complete overhaul of the way in which we handle our data. So many organisations have made strides forward and for the right reasons. Yet, for some at least, the GDPR is felt as a weight on the shoulders of the organisation, but does it need to be? Mark Harper thinks not.
For those playing the word association game, the word ‘pressure’ is usually synonymous with the acronym ‘GDPR’. It wasn’t too long ago that the phrase ‘GDPR’ sent shudders down the spine of anyone trying to desperately understand the new EU Regulation, let alone prepare their business for it.
Fast forward almost a year and a half from 25 May 2018 and a great deal has changed. Generally, individuals are now beginning to understand the GDPR, with some questioning why data hasn’t always been handled this meticulously. For data handlers themselves, although this isn’t the case for everyone, steps have been taken in the right direction, with many improving the way in which they handle confidential data and sensitive information.
However, there’s still a looming pressure to make sure the GDPR is right. For a year and a half now, fines and dented reputations have been hanging over the head of so many data handlers. Even those who’ve worked hard to improve their processes and meet the new standards haven’t always been able to keep up.
That begs the question: ‘Are we in danger of GDPR fatigue?’
UK under pressure
Back in July 2019, a study found that one third of EU businesses were still not compliant with the rules that were put in place a year prior. What’s more, a report conducted in September found that over half of UK businesses are still not fully compliant either.
As we’ve seen in the news, organisations that are not compliant run the risk of heavy fines. The latter half of this year has certainly uncovered a string of data breach investigations as we now begin to see a number of organisations, big and small, succumb to the pressure of data protection.
In one of this year’s larger cases, the Information Commissioner’s Office has stated its intent to fine British Airways £183 million under this GDPR. This comes after a data breach involving the personal data of approximately half a million customers.
British Airways representatives described the incident as surprising and disappointing, with top analysts highlighting that this episode should act as a reminder that the GDPR covers any business handling data.
While that’s true, these news stories shouldn’t add to the ongoing pressure that data handlers are experiencing. Instead, they should be used as a positive motive to drive organisations to seek a simpler, yet more effective approach towards data protection.
Keeping teams on track
Put simply, the GDPR doesn’t need to be the oppressive regulation that it’s seen to be. For those that are feeling the pressure or, even worse, falling short with data protection, it’s important to take a step back and make certain that the basics are right.
For organisations, it’s key to remember that not all individuals will become a GDPR compliance specialist. With that in mind, it’s imperative that a business has the correct internal processes in place to support staff and, as experts have continually emphasised, raise education on the subject to at an appropriate level.
If you take the shredding process as an example, teams within an organisation should understand the security level at which they’re required to cut. For example, Finance and HR Departments should consider destroying their highly sensitive documents by cross-cut shredding to a level of P-5 or above, whereas it’s more appropriate to destroy documents within a general office environment at the lower P-4 security level. It’s this level of education and understanding that could be the difference between compliance and a GDPR breach.
Routine is also crucial. For those dealing with paper documents containing highly confidential or sensitive information, shredding procedures should be encouraged as part of a routine. While it’s a step in the right direction to own an internal shredder system, it’s not enough if they’re not being used correctly. Staff should be encouraged to deal with confidential documents and shred them at the point of use as soon as they’re no longer needed. Whole documents left waiting to be disposed are at risk. Only once shredded appropriately is information totally secure.
With this in mind, teams may benefit from employing what’s known as a clean desk policy – helping to ensure that sensitive information is out of sight of visitors and third parties that are visiting an organisation’s office space for example. Furthermore, the use of internal shredders guarantees instant document security by reducing the risk of misplaced, lost or stolen printouts. Without routine, an individual can be subject to uncertainty and this can cause mounting pressure and lead to GDPR ‘burnout’.
A data procedure is for life
Avoiding this fatigue is paramount for organisations right now. To implement an effective data security process, continual investment (both time and financial in nature) is key. As we know, data protection has changed and organisations must now fully support their members of staff to ensure ongoing compliance.
Pressure is invited upon organisations that still continue to approach the GDPR in the wrong way. In truth, it has never been enough to view it as an afterthought. Put simply, it’s only when data security is taken seriously will organisations be able to alleviate the pressure associated with the GDPR.
Mark Harper is Head of Sales at HSM