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Multinational organizations doing business across multiple jurisdictions have strict rules to follow when it comes to data privacy. Those rules are especially rigorous in the European Union (EU), where the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) lays out tight controls on data protection and privacy — and failure to comply can lead to significant fines and other sanctions, as well as serious reputational damage.

To protect themselves from these very real risks, many global organizations are adopting data and technology strategies that aim to future-proof their operations with respect to data privacy. Though approaches may vary across industries and between public and private sectors, there are still common elements to consider as you plan to protect your data and ensure compliance with a global patchwork of laws, regulations, and standards.

Legal Issues Surrounding Data Privacy at Home and Abroad

Of course, a primary consideration for organizations trying to get buttoned down on data privacy will be the specific legal requirements, which can range from how user data is stored and used to measures required for restoration and recovery in the event of a data breach. One requirement specific to the GDPR is the ability to handle individual requests for data access and data erasure — otherwise known as the “right to be forgotten,” a right every consumer has under the GDPR — in a timely manner. This is a non-trivial requirement, as both technology architectures and business processes must be designed with this capability in mind.

For global enterprises, data usage policies are a key to compliance. For example, under the GDPR, it's critical to understand and adhere to the requirements for transferring personal data outside the EU — and to use technologies that can satisfy those requirements. If personal data must be transferred outside the European Economic Area (EEA), appropriate data transfer mechanisms, such as Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) or Binding Corporate Rules (BCRs), must be in place.

Likewise, you’ll need a comprehensive consent management system to ensure that users provide explicit consent for the collection, processing, and storage of their personal data — and can withdraw that consent easily if they wish.

Lastly, should a ransomware scenario or data breach occur, a clear incident response plan is essential to handle incidents promptly and effectively. Any breach must be reported to appropriate authorities and affected individuals as required by GDPR and other laws and regulations. Organizations employing third-party data storage solutions and recovery services should make certain they also have clear worst-case-scenario plans in place that are in line with all proper legal regulations.

Design Principles and Processes for Data Privacy

Building a solid foundation from the outset is always easier than retrofitting a house later on—and the same is true of information systems and architecture. Let privacy by design and by default be the watchword.

Data protection should be baked in — fully integrated into processes and business practices as well as technologies, starting with the design stage and continuing throughout the entire lifecycle. Design with privacy laws and standards in mind—which means data and system architectures should reflect the flexibility and modularity needed to adapt to changing requirements. Make privacy a fundamental consideration from the start of any new project — and by default, limit the amount of personal data collected and processed to what is necessary for the intended purpose.

Piggybacking off the points above, organizations should regularly perform privacy impact assessments (PIAs) for new and ongoing projects to identify problems before they become an issue. Techniques such as anonymization and pseudonymization of key data sets also help to protect important consumer data and make compliance with “right to be forgotten” strictures easier.

Solutions for Future-Proofing: Data Storage, Training, and Best Practices

As cyber criminals get smarter and attacks become more complex, so does data security. Multifactor authentication (MFA) and multi-person authentication (MPA) are becoming the norm for both employee and consumer accounts. Robust data encryption is a must, in transit and at rest — as are secure, compliant data storage solutions that adhere to GDPR requirements and feature strong access controls, audit trails, and data retention policies.

Finally, employee training is essential to data security. Every team member should understand data security requirements, procedures, and their role in case of an incident. Appointing a data protection officer (DPO) to oversee data security efforts can also boost awareness.

Data Privacy: A Win-Win for Customers and Employees

But data privacy isn’t just a compliance checkbox. It’s also a trust-building exercise with your customers and your employees — and in today's data-driven world, trust translates into more shared data. The more confident people are that their data is in safe hands, the more willing they are to share it.

This increased openness provides organizations with valuable insights for improving products, services, and overall experience. At the same time, it enhances customer and employee satisfaction. In essence, strong data privacy practices create a virtuous cycle: the organization gains deeper insights while individuals enjoy a more personalized and secure experience. So a proactive approach to data privacy isn’t just about avoiding legal pitfalls—it's also about enriching relationships and unlocking new avenues for value creation.

Data Privacy Expertise and Robust Systems

Of course, technology strategies and decisions can vary based on a company's size, industry, and specific data processing activities, and should be tailored to address that specific organization’s needs. Seeking legal advice and consulting with data protection experts might also be crucial in navigating complex data privacy and compliance issues in Europe.

But two things are clear. First, implementing the right platforms, capabilities, and processes from the outset is essential in avoiding both harm to customers and legal and reputational blowback to your organization. Second, a robust approach to data privacy can create a circle of trust with customers and employees that will be a win-win for all concerned.

Contact us for forward-looking data privacy solutions and technologies

HCLSoftware wants to help you protect your business-crucial data and customers. We offer a variety of solutions to help you reach your data privacy goals, including HCL BigFix, Volt MX, Notes, Verse, Sametime, Connections, and Leap.

Learn more by reaching out to us online or contacting one of our global offices today.

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