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Oliver Wendell Holmes is noted to have said something about missing all the fun if you obey all the rules. He does have a point; life doesn’t have to be all strict and serious. However, if you’re handling people’s data, you best obey all the rules.

Yes, it’s that serious. Everyone and their cousins are on the internet now and the opportunities online are amazing. However, this is only possible because there are rules and regulations guiding operations and conduct, especially data collection and processing. You won’t be reading this if you think your data isn’t safe on this site, will you?

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is why you can feel safe online without worrying about what websites do with your data. On the flip side, you also owe it to your website visitors and customers to protect their data. They have to feel confident that their sensitive information is safe on your website.

Failure to comply with the GDPR is an invitation to penalties that will put you out of business fast. But that’s not what you want. You want to know GDPR best practices like the back of your hand and follow them accordingly. Here’s where to start.

What is GDPR

Take a deep breath and release all pent-up tension about GDPR. Think of it as you would your football and computer game. Yes, even your candy crush. They’re guided by rules. If you play by the rules, you’re good, but if you don’t, well… 

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is basically a compilation of rules guiding how businesses collect and process data. It’s the world’s most revered set of data protection rules. This collection of regulations moderates how personal information is accessed and handled. It controls what businesses can do with personal data.

So, if you can obey game rules to win, you can do the same with GDPR. Same principle, different spheres. 

9 GDPR principles 

Talking about principles, GDPR isn’t some law a couple of gatekeepers slammed together to enslave businesses. Far from it. It is guided by nine core principles. These principles teach you how to be compliant. Let’s get to know them.

1. Lawfulness

This principle demands that the way you collect and process data must be guided by law. There has to be a legal basis for gathering and using personal data. Also, you must ensure that whatever you do with the data does not breach any other law. 

2. Fairness

How fair are you in managing your visitors and customers’ data? GDPR expects an honest answer from you. Fairness means not using people’s data in any way that will be detrimental and misleading. Ensure you use personal data only in ways that serve the best interest of the owners. 

3. Transparency 

Transparency demands that you be an open book to your users. And why not? If you have nothing to hide, you’ll come clean about your data management processes. You owe it to your users to be open, clear and transparent about how you will use their confidential information. 

4. Purpose limitation

People’s data are not plastic bottles you reuse, recycle and repurpose. Let the purpose of your data gathering and processing be clear from the start and ensure you use the data strictly for the intended purpose. Any attempt to repurpose personal data without the owner’s consent is a data breach. 

5. Data minimization 

We’ve all heard the saying, “Take all you can and can all you get.” Witty as it sounds, it doesn’t apply to people’s confidential data. You have to take only what you need. The principle of data minimization demands that you take only what is necessary, adequate and relevant.

6. Accuracy  

Do all in your power to ensure that the personal data you collect is accurate. If you need to update the data to ensure accuracy, do so. If you discover misleading or inaccurate data, take reasonable steps to erase or amend it.

7. Storage limitation  

If you have the habit of storing stuff you don’t need just because you think it might be useful someday, ditch that habit at home. The storage limitation principle requires that you don’t keep your customers and website visitors’ personal data longer than you need it. Be sure to review the data you hold from time to time to erase and anonymize them when necessary. 

8. Integrity   

Before people entrust their data to you, they must be assured that you have security measures in place to protect their data. The integrity of your business lies in your ability to secure your clients’ and website visitors’ data. Hence, your cybersecurity measures must be airtight. 

9. Confidentiality   

The confidentiality principle demands that only people authorized to handle and process data are doing it. You have a duty to treat all data committed to your care with utmost confidentiality. This builds customer trust over time and improves your brand awareness

You now have a solid understanding of the foundation GDPR is built on. You also have a clearer perspective on how to be compliant. It’s time to learn the best practices. 

7 GDPR best practices

GDPR best practice examples abound all over the internet. However, knowing these practices is not enough. What you need is compliance. If you know the rules of a game and you don’t obey them, you will be disqualified. The practices highlighted below will guide you in complying with the GDPR. 

1. Get familiar with the GDPR 

You can’t practice what you don’t know. The first step to being compliant with the GDPR is to read it thoroughly and be familiar with the requirements. This knowledge is the foundation on which you’ll build compliance.

2. Have a data privacy compliance framework

Having a data privacy compliance framework is one of the smartest actions to take if your goal is to comply with the GDPR. This framework is a collection of policies, tools, roles and processes that enable your organization to define, execute, oversee and update its data privacy practices.  

A data privacy compliance framework gives you a structure that allows you to manage personal data and helps you operate in compliance with the GDPR. Not only do you need this framework, you must continually improve on it. 

3. Document your data processing activities

Creating an inventory of every personal data your company holds is one of the best practices of GDPR compliance. Document where all data is from, what you do with it and who can access it. This document is called a GDPR diary. It will map the data flow in your company, giving you a clear picture of how you manage data.

4. Align your operations with GDPR principles 

See why it’s important to get acquainted with GDPR principles? There’s no better GDPR practice than letting its principles guide every action you take regarding data. Create a checklist based on these pillars that’s ticked whenever you’re handling personal data. This will help you stay compliant. 

5. Invest in technologies that help with GDPR compliance 

As discussed earlier, one of the core principles of GDPR is integrity. To have integrity, you must invest in technologies that help secure your customers’ and website visitors’ data. Ensure your software provider has firewalls and encryption features to protect data from hackers and other online attacks. 

6. Employ a Data Protection Officer (DPO) 

You can easily slow down on GDPR compliance if there’s no one dedicated to it. It’s a no-brainer – with all the tasks that come with business management, it’s easy to skip some vital GDPR practice. To ensure this doesn’t happen, have a staff fully dedicated to ensuring your company complies with data privacy and protection laws. 

Besides, it’s stated in the GDPR itself that there must be a Data Protection Officer to oversee the data protection strategy. Employing one is complying with the law.

7. Report data breaches immediately

There’s no perfect system. Regardless of how well your GDPR compliance structure is, sometimes, mistakes happen. When these mistakes happen and data privacy is breached, you have an obligation to report it immediately to a supervisory authority such as the Data Protection Association (DPA). This body will then take the necessary action.

Don’t attempt to cover up any data breach in your organization. If you do, you’ll only be making matters worse. The breach will be discovered and the penalty will be higher.

Ground your business on GDPR best practices and thrive 

Just as no one can win a game without following the rules, no business can thrive in this digital age without complying with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). To win in business, you must handle your customers’ and website visitors’ data in line with the GDPR. 

When you check all the GDPR principles boxes in your business, you avoid fines and penalties. You also boost your company’s reputation when you demonstrate a commitment to data privacy. Finally, GDPR compliance helps in risk management; you’re better positioned to manage data-related risks when you comply with the rules. 

What’s the data protection process like in your organization? Have you been complying with the GDPR? If yes, how has the journey been? Which of the best practices are you following? Whatever your answers are, keep in mind that GDPR compliance is a continuous journey and what matters most is that you’re headed in the right direction. All the best.

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