Is GDPR a one-off thing?

By
Alex Franch
June 28, 2022

On 20 August 2021, the Data Protection Commission (DPC) slammed WhatsApp with a €225 million GDPR fine. The WhatsApp team failed to properly explain how they process data across borders in their GDPR policy.

Was the fine worth it? Or just a political shake-down?

At its core, GDPR gives your users more control over their personal data. Yes, big tech companies already have a scary amount of data about how you fry your bacon. At least with GDPR, you sleep better knowing you can ask them to delete everything, anytime.

GDPR compliance is a critical part of protecting your business and your customers. Being compliant means people can trust that your organization collects personal data legally and under strict, transparent conditions. Your users and clients know you protect their data from misuse and exploitation, as well as respect their rights to recall whenever they choose to.

Now back to the WhatsApp problem. What went wrong?

After the fine, the messaging service added more detail on why they share data across borders and the legal bases for users' information they process. Even for a corporation as large as WhatsApp, it’s not very easy to make sure your policy documents stay up-to-date on everything your business is doing with data, from collection to processing to storage.

You make changes to business processes very often. Should your policy documents follow suit?

How do you know it is time for a change/update?

Most times your GDPR policy does not require a complete overhaul as long as you’ve got the underlying structure right.

For reference, a great structure answers these questions (at least):

  • What personal information do you collect?
  • How and why do you collect this information?
  • How do you use this information?
  • How do you keep this information safe?
  • How long is this information kept?
  • Is this information shared or sold? If so, with whom?
  • Do any third parties collect personal information or have access to the information you have collected?
  • Do you use cookies? How?

If the answer to these questions ever changes, you would need to update your policy document.

Is this regular update absolutely necessary?

The average total cost of a, data breach is USD 3.86 million. Before you raise your hands about not having that kind of money, this cost includes betrayed trust, tarnished goodwill, and trampled honour. Priceless intangibles.

Sometimes the bark is louder than the bite. The last thing you want is to be fined for a violation of GDPR rights or a data breach. Taking active, transparent steps to protect the data your customers entrust with you is simply….responsible.

How often should you review your GDPR?

Short answer: As frequently as the data you handle and the way you handle data changes.

Since it’s so easy to get swept into the labyrinth of corporate activities, I recommend you review your GDPR policy at least once a year so that it reflects how you currently process data. Some certifications, (like the ,California Consumer Privacy Act) contain a clear requirement that organizations must update their policies at least once every 12 months.

Is there any other reason you might need to update your GDPR?

1. GDPR law and regulations do change.

It doesn’t matter whether you care much about daylight savings. If you don’t update your calendar, you could miss important meetings.

Similarly, governmental laws and regulations change from time to time. Ignorance of the law never made a good defence. It’s your responsibility to look out for these changes and update your GDPR compliance document accordingly.

2. Your team finds it difficult to implement your GDPR policy guidelines.

If you notice your actual data usage differs from what’s in your policy document, something needs to change. Your process, or your document.

Privacy policies and GDPR compliance documents that are impractical to implement are more common than you would suspect, especially among startups. In my experience, the usual culprit is somebody copying and trying to adapt a generic or competitor’s template. Square pegs, round holes.

It’s easy to confirm that your organisation’s policy document is still valid by re-iterating your use cases. You could always book a free consultation with us to get a second, more professional opinion.

3. Some privacy policy violation happened.

Employees revealed something they shouldn’t? A hacker compromised your system? Or did you get fined?

Privacy policy violations happen whether you expect them or not. As part of your official response to a breach, it is often a great idea to update your GDPR policy to handle future occurrences. It took WhatsApp less than two months to ,push out a new change (pretty quick for an organisation that size).

4. You introduced a new product or service.

Introducing a new product or service to your consumers means some update or addition to your process. Which roughly translates to a need to update your GDPR compliance document.

For example, if you introduce a new product for children, you need to update your GDPR or that could trigger special child privacy laws. An example of such a law is the ,Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which mandates special handling of data for children under 13.

How do I update my GDPR?

One way would be to have a lawyer on retainer. If you are a startup large enough to justify the legal cost, then definitely go for this. Having a professional keep an eye out for you will save you a lot of money in potential fines. And you can’t really put a price tag on worry-free sleep.

Picture it. A worry-free sleep.

If you don’t have a lot of legal work to justify paying lawyer fees, a solution like Privasee is the next best thing. A service put together by lawyers to keep your legal costs low while giving you the needed legal umbrella. ,Privasee experts ensure you have Privacy policies and GDPR compliance documents that stay updated as the tide changes.

A third option would be to do it yourself. If your company is small, and you have the time to keep up with changes in the legal space, you can absolutely do this. It might help to subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date on things you need to look out for.

Conclusion

GDPR is an ever-evolving regulation that responds to cross-border law changes, deltas in political and technological climates, government pulses and public concerns.

As such, your company’s GDPR compliance document cannot afford to go stale. Fines are no fun. You have more important things to do with money. Also, trust takes a long time to build. Being outed for a policy breach doesn’t help.

Let, Privasee take away the stress, so you can focus on your business with full legal confidence.

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Alex Franch
Co-Founder & CEO
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