3 Seemingly Minor Ways a Business Can Breach Data Protection Rules

Data Protection Rules
Data Protection Rules

Entering into the business landscape in 2024 can be a little daunting. It’s not just about coming up with a product or service, formulating a great digital marketing strategy, beating the competition, acquiring customers, and building profitability – it’s about taking on the responsibility of other people’s personal data and doing all you can to protect it.

Whether you’re operating under GDPR, the Digital Charter Implementation Act, or the CCPA, it is your job as a business owner to operate inside the law and follow the appropriate data protection guidelines. If you don’t, then not only are you risking a hefty fine – up to 20 million euros under the GDPR framework – but you’re also threatening your business’ established reputation.

The New World of Data Privacy

It must be noted how many people now delete personal data from Google, or opt out of data brokers that are harvesting their information. Consumers in 2024 have become a lot more savvy about the data privacy problem, and many of them are taking it upon themselves to protect themselves. For companies that aren’t putting in the same amount of effort, their reputation can easily get damaged, as customers move to purchase from alternative, reliable companies who are following the rules.

That being said, following data protection rules isn’t straightforward. While there are clear step-by-step guidelines – collect and use personal data fairly, conduct DPIAs, and ensure technology meets regulatory requirements, to name a few – there are several seemingly minor ways your company can slip up. We’re going to look into these breaches below and explain exactly why you should be wary of them.

1. A Lack of Transparency

Back in 2019, the French regulatory body for data privacy – known as the National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (or CNIL) – fined Google LLC 50 million euros for a breach of GDPR rules. When questioned about the financial penalty, the body stated that it was down to a ‘lack of transparency, inadequate information, and lack of valid consent.’ While the last point is an obvious breach of GDPR – as consumers must be able to consent to their data being taken and processed – the ‘lack of transparency’ is a little more vague.

It’s important, in this case, for your business to remain as transparent as possible, including privacy statements, opt-in options, checkboxes, and clear links to privacy policies on the main website. Any visitor must be asked clearly and concisely whether you can collect their data, what kind of data you’re collecting, what it is you’re going to do with their data, and how they’re able to opt out of the agreement – exercising their GDPR rights, consumers should have the ability to access, change, or delete the data that you hold on them.

2. International Data Transfer

You’re most likely aware of the laws on holding, processing, and analysing consumer data. But what you might not know is that – even after anonymising the data that you own – every byte has a virtual passport. In other words, you cannot simply transfer data from one place to another without following the appropriate processes.

This includes doing the necessary risk assessments, factoring in the recipient country’s – or service’s – level of protection system, and going through all the necessary agreements with the recipient. If you do not do this, you are handing away data that is your responsibility, and placing it somewhere that might be unsafe. Not to mention transferred data becomes even more vulnerable, with many network hacking criminals targeting data that is being sent from one system to the other. As part of data protection rules, you need to keep sensitive data in a secure system and only transfer it if it is necessary and safe to do so.

3. The Makeup of Your Website

The makeup of your website is the last thing that might seem relatively minor but can result in a big data protection breach. Say, for instance, you have a mailing list for EU citizens. If you’re using email marketing services to send out newsletters, you need to review it alongside GDPR compliance and gain permission from users to send the emails. This includes a double opt-in method, whereby users can verify their email address, and the ability to opt-out as easily as possible.

If your website uses non-essential cookies, too, you need a cookie banner and attain GDPR cookie consent before doing so. The banner in question needs to inform users of why you’re collecting cookies, what you’re storing them for, and what you’re doing to protect them. The language in the banner needs to be clear and concise, as well as informing consumers about their right to refuse storage.

Along with data privacy forms, regularly updated privacy policies, and optimal protection including firewalls, anti-virus software, strong passwords, and an SSL certificate, these are the essentials of your website that may not all seem that significant, but are completely connected. If you drop the ball on just one, then you are risking a breach of data protection rules and subsequently risking the future of your business.

Image Source: Unsplash

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