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6 business benefits of data protection and GDPR compliance

GDPR compliance benefits include increased trust and credibility, along with a better understanding of the data that's being collected and how it's managed.

The General Data Protection Regulation is the European Union's core digital privacy legislation. The mandate applies to organizations in all member states and has implications for businesses and individuals across the EU, as well as for global parties with an EU customer and/or user base.

Although many enterprises continue to view GDPR as a troublesome requirement, the regulation can help streamline and improve several core business activities. Here's a quick look at six GDPR compliance benefits.

1. Easier business process automation

Many astute enterprises use their GDPR compliance responsibilities to take a hard look at how well they're managing customer and client data storage, processing and management responsibilities.

When working toward meeting GDPR compliance, business process improvements begin to reveal themselves, said Ryan Costello, an attorney and head of data privacy engagement services at ProSearch Strategies, a discovery technology provider to corporate legal departments and law firms.

"Whether it's streamlining data processing and lifecycle workflows, data hygiene and cleanup or even greater awareness of security vulnerabilities, there are numerous advantages to be gained through the GDPR compliance effort over and above privacy considerations alone," he explained.

GDPR compliance benefits
GDPR can spur enterprises into adopting practices that deliver long-term competitive advantages.

2. Increased trust and credibility

GDPR's Article Five includes seven fundamental principles:

  • Lawfulness, fairness and transparency
  • Purpose limitation
  • Data minimization
  • Accuracy
  • Storage limitation
  • Integrity and confidentiality
  • Accountability

"These seven principles form the basis and rationale for most laws within the GDPR and are fast becoming the universal data protection principles internationally," said Kim Chan, a lawyer and the founder of DocPro.com, a legal tech platform provider offering free legal documents and resources for individuals, startups and small businesses.

"An organization can gain trust and credibility from its customers if it can demonstrate that it follows the seven principles in making decisions regarding data protection," he noted.

Reaching full GDPR compliance signifies that an organization has achieved a high level of data protection -- an attribute that all customers, clients and business partners can appreciate.

"GDPR compliance, and, in particular, data protection by design, is seen as a key business differentiator," explained Sophie Stalla-Bourdillon, senior privacy counsel and legal engineer at Immuta, an automated data governance technology provider.

Additionally, as privacy and security continue to converge, a high level of data protection also means a high level of data security, an objective valued by almost every type of organization.

"What's clear is that GDPR rests on best practice principles of data management, and mature organizations often protect confidential business data in a similar fashion to personal data," Stalla-Bourdillon said.

3. A better understanding of the data being collected

When approached logically, GDPR adherence gives businesses a greater understanding and appreciation of their data and how it moves throughout the organization.

"There isn't a single function or department that doesn't benefit from that," stated Sophie Chase-Borthwick, vice president of data ethics and privacy at managed data service provider Calligo.

With GDPR's assistance, marketing and sales teams can, for instance, acquire enhanced oversight into who they can legitimately market products and/or services to. This approach typically results in smaller and more engaged audiences that are easier to address and manage, Chase-Borthwick noted.

Meanwhile, privacy initiatives generally trigger a consolidation of data platforms, which can benefit departments, such as human resources, by enabling easier reporting and faster and better decision-making.

"Plus, it helps with the employee value proposition, essential to recruiting and retention," Chase-Borthwick said. "When employees know that an organization has a demonstrable commitment to privacy and the security of their personal data -- from how long it's retained to how it's disposed of -- they feel more confident and secure about their workplace."

4. Improved data management

Chan advised organizations to begin their GDPR compliance effort with an internal regular data audit. "Analyze what data you collect, how much of it is collected and what the data is used for," he suggested. "Doing so will provide you with a framework of what you can continue collecting and what to cease the collection of."

Omer Tene, vice president and chief knowledge officer at the International Association of Privacy Professionals, a nonprofit, nonadvocacy membership group, said he believes businesses should reinforce their data protection programs by appointing someone to be in complete charge of data use and compliance issues. Typically called a chief privacy officer (CPO) or a data protection officer (DPO), this individual is charged with deploying methods to identify, map and track data flows throughout the organization.

The CPO or DPO is also responsible for negotiating data-oriented contracts with vendors, overseeing data management and protection, and creating and deploying privacy policies. The data chief is also usually responsible for preparing and maintaining a cybersecurity breach response plan and training and certifying personnel who have access to and govern enterprise data.

5. Protected and enhanced enterprise and brand reputation

By protecting consumers' privacy, organizations not only avoid potential penalties, but they can also unlock hidden reputational and brand value.

"Privacy is key to trust," Tene stated. Without a verifiable commitment to privacy, businesses can become vulnerable to brand damage and see their products and/or services criticized as being underhanded or creepy. Over the long run, GDPR compliance will enhance customer loyalty and trust and unlock paths to greater innovation and value creation, he added.

GDPR compliance is becoming an increasingly necessary benchmark for businesses providing services to companies, as well as for those hoping to distinguish themselves to prospective consumers, said Jordan L. Fischer, attorney at cybersecurity consulting firm Beckage.

Additionally, businesses that collect and process GDPR-affected data will be required to comply with GDPR to attract business customers, because those enterprises' own compliance is tied to their vendor's GDPR abidance. As consumers become savvier and more aware of privacy concerns, they will seek out companies that take privacy seriously, she added.

6. An even privacy playing field

Prior to GDPR, enterprises doing business in the EU frequently faced unfair competition from organizations that paid little or no attention to personal privacy. In such an environment, ethical enterprises fumbled about as they tried to determine how to reach a level of privacy that protected customers and clients without placing their organizations at an untenable competitive disadvantage.

GDPR is one of the first statutes to recognize privacy as a fundamental human right, codifying two fundamental privacy principles: privacy by design and privacy by default, observed Cyrus Wadia, vice president of general counsel and corporate secretary at database management software provider YugaByte.

Privacy by design is the idea that organizations should include privacy as a first principle when developing new products, services and processes that involve the collection or processing of personal data. Privacy by default demands that when an organization offers a system or service that allows customers to choose how much personal data can be shared, the default choice should be the most protective.

"From a practical point of view, building these principles into the core of GDPR encourages organizational privacy hygiene," Wadia explained. It also provides a structure that prevents organizations from taking security shortcuts to gain an unfair advantage over the competition.

"GDPR is simply the right thing to do," Wadia stated. "The damage to customer confidence and trust that can result from privacy breaches is immeasurable; therefore, the benefits that come with compliance are immeasurable."

Takeaway

With 99 articles, 173 recitals and 160 pages of text, GDPR compliance can seem overwhelming. "It can be easy to fall into the mindset that this is merely another compliance effort ... versus understanding that privacy now needs to be baked into everything your company may do at every level of your organization," Wadia warned.

It's important to understand that GDPR compliance is a process, not an accomplishment, ProSearch's Costello added. "It's not simply checking off a series of requirements, but evolving, recalibrating and reconsidering privacy and data protection as your organization -- and the sector, industry or vertical in which it operates -- evolves, expands, changes, adapts."

Next Steps

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