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15 min read

Data Protection: From Simply a Requirement to Being a Business Enabler

Data protection and privacy are more complex than ever in today's times. It's a fast-paced, information-intensive business world.

New regulations, such as the GDPR are being adopted around the globe and unknown threats, such as ransomware, are constantly emerging. According to recent studies, the average cost of a data breach is close to $4 million, and it has been steadily rising for several years. Did you know that there were 1,767 reported breaches worldwide in the first half of 2021? These breaches resulted in the exposure of 18.8 billion records – including a considerable amount of personal data.

While some consider data protection to be only a regulatory necessity for companies, others believe it may be a commercial enabler. Continue reading to find out how to make it work for your business. Read more to learn how to make it work for your business.

What Exactly Is Data Protection?

Taking it back to basics, data protection is all about ensuring the protection of individuals personal data. Usually set out in data protection principles, rights and obligations, explaining how your personal information is used by organisations, businesses or the government.

Information is protected against unauthorised access and misuse by adhering to applicable legal and regulatory standards. Data protection's goal is to achieve a balance between individual privacy rights and the ability to use data for commercial purposes.

You should apply data protection to all types of data, whether personal or business. You must follow rules on data protection if your business stores or uses personal information.
This applies to information kept on staff, customers and account holders, for example when you:

• recruit staff
• manage staff records
• market your products or services
• use CCTV

This could include:

• keeping customers’ addresses on file
• recording staff working hours
• giving delivery information to a delivery company

Is There a Difference Between Data Protection and Data Security?

Data security and protection are inextricably connected. If security is the head of the coin, then protection is the tails.

Data security refers to safeguarding data from any activities or actions that could be harmful to it. This is also often known as protection the Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability (CIA) of the data. In addition, this word refers to the process of preventing unauthorised users from accessing data.

Whereas, data protection is using people, processes and technology controls to ensure that personal data is only processed for legitimate purposes with the right organisational and technical controls in place.

Compliance - A Brief Explanation

Over the past few years data protection has really been placed firmly in the spotlight and countries around the globe are taking it seriously. There have been various compliance regulations introduced around the world. To mention a few:

• GDPR (Europe)
• Data Protection Act 18 (UK)
• CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act)
• PIPEDA (Canada The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act)
• Personal Information Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China
• POPiA (South Africa's Personal Information Protection Act)
• HIPAA (The USA Health and Insurance Act)

These regulations prescribe what an organisation's legal obligations are and the penalties for any breach of the requirements.

Several frameworks have also been developed or utilised to assist organisations in achieving fit-for-purpose compliance. To name a few:

• ISO 27701 (Privacy Information Management System)
• ISO 27001 (Information Security management System)
• NIST, which stands for the National Institute of Standards and Technology
• NCSC Cyber Assessment Framework
• Cyber Essentials

These frameworks set out to assist organisations on how to achieve compliance for the protection of data.

Some of the Benefits of Data Protection

While achieving data protection compliance is a daunting task, there are some tangible benefits to a business. The benefits we are going to discuss are all about adding value to your business.

Business Process Improvement

Every process in the business either consumes data or creates data. The data protection principle uses methodologies and technologies to protect and make data available in all circumstances. The deployment of these methods and technologies is where a great opportunity lies.

The best place to start is to review why your company needs the data and if it needs to be stored. First, ask yourself why and then establish how and who.

• Why do I need the data?
• How do I manage the data?
• Who has access to the data?

These questions will undoubtedly open up some insights not seen before. For example, you may find that you have data you do not need in some cases. So why burden your company with protection and storage you don't need?

You may even surprise yourself when you find out who has access, who can make copies and how those copies can move around.

Having answers at hand when the customer tests you, and you will be, as to what, who, and why you need their data, will put your business head and shoulders above the competition.

Increased Customer Trust

We have spoken of the rights of the data subjects to decide who can use their personal data and to what end.

To be able to assure your customers that you are taking every precaution to protect their data is excellent. But, to tell them that your company is compliant with a globally accepted regulatory framework is better!

Undoubtedly, being able to face your customers when they request information regarding the source of the data you are holding on them with transparent, factual answers; can only improve your relationship.

When you have assured your customers of this, they are likely to share additional helpful information.

And, once again, if you can satisfy your customer that any data that has been requested to be destroyed has been done so correctly, using industry best-practice, your customer trust can, and will, grow.

Customers now expect this level of protection as standard.

Showing that you are enthusiastic about providing customers with a clear privacy policy statement describing how all of your customers may benefit from entrusting you with their personal information and what precautions your organisation takes to protect that information is a plus.

Elevated Awareness of Cyber Security

Ensuring your and your customer's digital privacy is becoming an ever-more complex issue. Although technology is moving at a rate never seen before, keeping up with it isn't easy.

The process we have previously discussed of reviewing your business processes form a data perspective highlights areas that require attention. This could be your backup and recovery strategy, your data retention rules, and fundamental data destruction processes and methods.

Make use of experienced consultants with proven track records to help you. Cyber security is a lot more than data management and security.

Keeping the Cyber Nasties out

Hackers may find it more challenging to gain access to sensitive information if data protection measures are in place. This may include critical information maintained by businesses, such as names, addresses, phone numbers, email accounts, bank account information, health information, and so on and so forth. In addition to preventing identity theft and other sorts of fraudulent actions, you may deter thieves from conducting them by securing essential and sensitive data on your estate.

The Company Data Protection Policy

All the work put into processes, methods, and technology will be to no avail if employees are not aware of the company data protection policy (DPP).

The policy should clearly and concisely cover the topics discussed.

To refresh, here is some crucial heading for your DPP:

• The need for data protection and the businesses intent
• The company principles underpinning the protection policy
• The need for the data in the company
• What data is required
• Access and usage statements
• Individual rights management
• Record Of Processing Activities (RoPA)
• Data retention
• Data destruction
• Data breach management
• Employee training and awareness intent

The final bullet in the list above is extremely important. Organisations that cultivate a privacy and data protection culture, including compliance, will be able to gain a competitive edge by prioritising the health and safety of their customer data in the digital business environment.

Have a Strategy in Place

A data protection strategy is a coordinated effort that incorporates all of the steps taken to safeguard data in the company. A data protection plan can assist firms in standardising the protection of sensitive data and corporate information, protecting consumer and employee privacy, as well as intellectual property security.

Building trust requires a strategic commitment to protecting client privacy. As a result, data protection should be a vital component of any corporate strategy.

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To truly support the business, data protection needs be considered and factored in to business decisions and processes from the outset. This approach ensures it supports and enables the business. Gone are the days where the business undertakes an initiative and waits until the end to get data protection sign off. This approach almost always leads to delays due to the time needed to ensure the right controls are in place and any re-work that may cause. Having your data protection specialists engaged and supporting from the beginning allows these requirements to be considered and factored in at the right time during the project. This ensures everyone is on the same journey and gets to the destination at the right time - and is by far the smartest way to get the best return from your investment in data protection.

Summing It All Up

Data protection is the process of preventing data and vital information from being hacked or corrupted. It may be difficult for many businesses. However, it provides benefits such as:

• Increased return on investment
• Enhanced customer loyalty
• More efficient operations

The goal of data protection is to balance individual privacy rights and the ability to use data for commercial purposes; without hindering the business.

Investor confidence will rise due to securing your customers information, which is good for your business.

Taking a long, hard look at the data in your company, how it's used, how it moves, and how it's maintained will bring a serious competitive advantage.

Are you looking for expert help with your digital safety? Contact us today. We deliver effective knowledge and solutions for your data protection!

An influencer, with experience in operating across an enterprise information technology and software organisations, at Chief Information Security Officer level. Adam has a proven history of building and running diverse, high-performance teams, with a track record of exceeding objectives and targets.