Why It Is Imperative to Have a
Data Privacy Policy

In today’s world, data privacy matters. The right to privacy for whatever data is collected about or shared by us is a crucial feature of our freedoms. It’s necessary for everything from avoiding crimes such as identity theft (through the use of shared Personally Identifiable Information being weaponized or exploited) to stopping excessive surveillance on our movements or, in the broadest sense, for free speech as we know it.

Put simply: If a customer shares information with a business or other entity, they are doing this because they are putting their trust (and an incredibly valuable asset) in that organization.

This goes for everything from contact details to location data to passwords to medical or financial information. While different services will use data in different ways, what is essential is that this is always done in a way that users have agreed to. Anything else is an abuse of trust – and trust counts for a whole lot.

The Data Privacy Drivers

In recent years, there have been two main drivers when it comes to data privacy safeguards by companies. The first is the increased threat of data breaches, referring to the intentional or unintentional release of private and confidential information to an untrusted third party or environment. This could be the result of human error or a purposeful cyber-attack, in which hackers try to exfiltrate data from a target. Data breaches have, unfortunately, become an increasingly common occurrence in today’s computing landscape – with the average cost of a data breach climbing to $4.24 million per incident in 2021.

The second driver when it comes to data privacy is regulatory compliance, as governments around the world work to crack down on data being shared or exposed without the express agreement of users. Landmark frameworks like Europe’s GDPR laws have laid out strict rules that companies must follow in this regard, along with harsh punishments for those who fail to follow them. There are also industry specific regulations (such as HIPAA or the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act) and third-party obligations covering agreements with business partners.

Building A Data Privacy Policy

Organizations must develop and implement a data privacy policy as a matter of urgency. This is a policy that’s designed to balance the data privacy rights for individuals with the organization’s requirements for using data. While there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all template for creating a data privacy policy, there are unifying considerations that should be part of any data privacy policy. Two fundamental considerations include:

  • Details regarding the type of personal data that’s gathered: Is it medical or financial data? Where and how is it collected? This information is crucial for any organization to consider. After all, as discussed, requirements can vary depending on areas like industry.
  • Carrying out a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA): How and where is your data stored and backed up? How do you dispose of it when the time comes – and when exactly is that time? A PIA is a critical consideration when it comes to how data flows into and out of your organization, including how it’s transferred between countries where applicable.

Choose The Right Cyber Security Tools

Organizations must also avail themselves of the latest tools for helping implement data privacy measures. For example, cyber security data privacy tools can monitor, log, and report on any data structure changes. Meanwhile, data loss prevention (DLP) measures work by monitoring and also protecting data whether it’s in motion or at rest. These tools can help block attacks and spot (and protect against) unusual activity that could be indicative of data theft.

Data masking is yet another invaluable weapon at your disposal. By anonymizing and masking data, organizations can protect against data theft using the latest encryption and other related approaches. Still other measures include privileged user monitoring, secure audit trail archiving, user rights management systems, and more.

A Major Challenge

Dealing with these threats can sometimes seem overwhelming. The range of different possible cyber-attacks, the need to educate employees about the likes of “phishing” attempts, and an increasingly fragmented set of guidelines around data can be mind-boggling to deal with. However, with potentially enormous financial and reputational damages at stake, it’s essential that every company takes this topic on board and works hard to protect themselves and their users.

Data privacy is a topic that is only going to become increasingly pressing in the years to come. By acting now, organizations can establish their trustworthy credentials with users, while working to proactively safeguard against attacks. This is one area where it doesn’t pay to sit back and wait to see who else moves first. Privacy is going to be one of the most pressing themes of the next decade – and beyond. You won’t regret taking a proactive role in this conversation.