Data Governance and GDPR: A Comprehensive Guide to Achieving Regulatory Compliance

Updated May 17th, 2023
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The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a comprehensive framework that sets stringent guidelines for data protection and privacy rights of individuals within the European Union (EU) and beyond. To navigate the complexities of GDPR and achieve compliance, organizations must adopt robust data governance practices.

In this blog, we will dive into practical insights and best practices to align your data management practices with GDPR requirements.

Let’s begin!


Table of contents

  1. Ensuring GDPR compliance using data governance: A step-by-step guide
  2. Choosing a data governance tool: Key factors to consider
  3. Common mistakes to avoid while crafting a data governance strategy to ensure GDPR compliance
  4. Data governance and GDPR: Books and online resources for more learning
  5. Bringing it all together
  6. Data governance and GDPR: Related reads

Ensuring GDPR compliance using data governance: A step-by-step guide

Let us first know the steps before understanding them in detail:

  • Step 1: Understand the GDPR Requirements
  • Step 2: Audit existing data
  • Step 3: Classify data
  • Step 4: Map data flows
  • Step 5: Implement data protection measures
  • Step 6: Data Privacy Impact Assessment (DPIA)
  • Step 7: Establish data retention and deletion policies
  • Step 8: Implement consent management
  • Step 9: Implement Data Subject Access Request (DSAR) process
  • Step 10: Training and awareness
  • Step 11: Monitor and audit
  • Step 12: Choose the right data governance tool

Let us look into each of these steps in detail:

Step 1: Understand the GDPR Requirements


Before you start, you must have a clear understanding of GDPR requirements. These include but are not limited to:

  • Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency
  • Purpose limitation
  • Data minimization
  • Accuracy
  • Storage limitation
  • Integrity and confidentiality (security)
  • Accountability and compliance

Step 2: Audit existing data


Inventory all data sources and understand what data you hold, where it is, who has access to it, and how it is used. This audit will help you understand what data is collected, the source of the data, the purpose of data collection, and how long it is retained. The data that is collected should be minimized to what is strictly necessary for the specified purpose.

Step 3: Classify data


Classify data based on sensitivity and risk, and tag data sets with Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and non-PII. This will help you to apply the right level of security and access controls. Implement a metadata management strategy to manage and maintain this classification.

Step 4: Map data flows


Understand how data moves throughout your organization. This includes who handles it, who it’s shared with (both internally and externally), and whether it crosses any international borders.

Step 5: Implement data protection measures


Develop and implement policies to protect data based on the classification and the GDPR requirements. This can include encryption, anonymization, pseudonymization, access controls, etc.

Step 6: Data Privacy Impact Assessment (DPIA)


Conduct DPIAs for processes that are likely to result in a high risk to individuals’ rights and freedoms. This will help you to identify and mitigate risks.

Step 7: Establish data retention and deletion policies


Create clear policies for how long data will be stored and when it will be deleted. GDPR requires that personal data be kept only for as long as necessary for the purpose for which it was collected.


Ensure that you have clear and proactive consent from individuals to collect and use their data. Implement mechanisms for individuals to withdraw consent easily.

Step 9: Implement Data Subject Access Request (DSAR) process


Under GDPR, individuals have the right to access their data, correct inaccuracies, object to processing, and request deletion. Implement processes to handle these requests within the required timelines.

Step 10: Training and awareness


Ensure that all employees are aware of the GDPR requirements and their responsibilities. Provide regular training and updates.

Step 11: Monitor and audit


Regularly monitor and audit data processing activities to ensure compliance. Have a robust incident response plan in case of data breaches.

Step 12: Choose the right data governance tool


Invest in a good data governance tool that can automate many of these tasks, such as data discovery, classification, and lineage; DSAR handling; consent management; and compliance reporting.

Remember, GDPR is not a one-time project but a continuous process that requires regular review and updates. It requires a cultural shift in how data is viewed and handled in the organization.


Choosing a data governance tool: Key factors to consider

When choosing a data governance tool to ensure GDPR compliance, here are several key factors you must consider:

  1. Comprehensive data discovery and classification
  2. Data mapping and lineage
  3. Consent management
  4. Data Subject Access Request (DSAR) management
  5. Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA)
  6. Policy management
  7. Incident management
  8. Reporting and dashboards
  9. Integration capabilities
  10. Scalability and performance
  11. Vendor support and community

Let us look into each of these factors in brief:

1. Comprehensive data discovery and classification


The tool should support the automatic discovery and classification of data across your enterprise. It should be able to identify and tag Personal Identifiable Information (PII) and other sensitive data and allow you to define your own classification categories as well.

2. Data mapping and lineage


The tool should provide data mapping and data lineage capabilities. It should enable you to track the data flow within your organization to identify who has access to the data, how it is used, and where it is transferred, which is important for GDPR compliance.


The tool should support consent management. It should allow you to track the consent of data subjects for the collection and processing of their data, and facilitate easy withdrawal of consent if required.

4. Data Subject Access Request (DSAR) management


The tool should provide features to handle DSARs efficiently. It should enable data subjects to access their data, rectify inaccuracies, object to processing, and request deletion, as required by the GDPR.

5. Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA)


The tool should support DPIA to help you identify and reduce the data protection risks of a project. This is mandatory for processing which is likely to result in a high risk to individuals’ rights and freedoms.

6. Policy management


The tool should allow you to define, manage, and enforce data governance policies. It should alert you to any policy violations, so you can take corrective action promptly.

7. Incident management


The tool should provide incident management capabilities. It should help you detect data breaches, send alerts, and facilitate the documentation and reporting of incidents to the data protection authorities within the required timeframes.

8. Reporting and dashboards


The tool should offer robust reporting and dashboards, providing clear visibility into your data governance and compliance status. It should enable you to demonstrate your compliance efforts to the data protection authorities and other stakeholders.

9. Integration capabilities


The tool should integrate well with other systems in your organization. This includes data sources, security tools, workflow management systems, and other IT infrastructure.

10. Scalability and performance


The tool should be scalable and performant. It should be able to handle the volume and complexity of data in your organization and adapt to your growing data governance needs.

11. Vendor support and community


Finally, consider the reputation of the vendor and the support they offer. This includes technical support, training, and the presence of a user community for advice and best practices.

Remember that no tool will cover all bases perfectly. Prioritize according to your organization’s specific needs, and aim to choose a tool that covers the most critical areas effectively.


Common mistakes to avoid while crafting a data governance strategy to ensure GDPR compliance

Indeed, while crafting a data governance strategy for GDPR compliance, there are several common pitfalls that organizations often fall into. Here are some to avoid:

  1. Treating GDPR compliance as a one-time project
  2. Neglecting Employee training and awareness
  3. Insufficient data mapping
  4. Overlooking data minimization principles
  5. Inadequate consent management
  6. Not implementing data protection by design and by default
  7. Not prioritizing data subject rights
  8. Poor incident response planning
  9. Relying exclusively on technology
  10. Neglecting third-party risk

Let us look into each of these mistakes in brief:

1. Treating GDPR compliance as a one-time project


GDPR compliance is not a one-off project but an ongoing process. It requires continuous monitoring and regular updates to data governance policies and procedures. Failing to recognize this can lead to non-compliance.

2. Neglecting employee training and awareness


Even the best data governance strategy can fail if employees are not aware of their responsibilities under GDPR. Regular training and awareness programs are crucial to ensure that everyone in the organization understands how to handle data correctly.

3. Insufficient data mapping


Often organizations fail to map data flows adequately. Knowing where data comes from, where it goes, who accesses it, and how it’s processed is fundamental for GDPR compliance.

4. Overlooking data minimization principles


GDPR stresses on data minimization - collecting and processing only what is necessary. Overlooking this principle and collecting more data than needed can lead to compliance issues.


Under GDPR, organizations need to obtain clear and proactive consent from individuals before collecting and processing their data. Failing to properly manage and document this consent can result in non-compliance.

6. Not implementing data protection by design and by default


GDPR requires data protection to be included in the design of systems and processes, not as an afterthought. Also, the default settings should be the most privacy-friendly. Overlooking these requirements can lead to compliance issues.

7. Not prioritizing data subject rights


GDPR gives several rights to data subjects, including the right to access, rectify, delete their data, and object to data processing. Neglecting to implement efficient processes for handling such requests can lead to non-compliance.

8. Poor incident response planning


GDPR mandates that data breaches must be reported to the relevant data protection authority within 72 hours. Failure to have an effective incident response plan in place can lead to non-compliance.

9. Relying exclusively on technology


While data governance tools can greatly assist with GDPR compliance, they are not a magic solution. Compliance also requires the right policies, procedures, and people in place.

10. Neglecting third-party risk


Under GDPR, you are responsible for the data processing activities of your vendors and partners. Failing to assess and manage third-party risk can lead to non-compliance.

By being aware of these common mistakes, you can take measures to avoid them and strengthen your GDPR compliance.


Data governance and GDPR: Books and online resources for more learning

Here are some resources and books to help you gain a better understanding of ensuring GDPR compliance with data governance:

Books


  1. The Data Governance: How to Design, Deploy, and Sustain an Effective Data Governance Program” by John Ladley. This book provides a comprehensive overview of data governance concepts and practices.
  2. Data Governance: Creating Value from Information Assets” by Neera Bhansali. It provides a practical guide to data governance practices, including the management of data privacy and data protection.
  3. Data Stewardship: An Actionable Guide to Effective Data Management and Data Governance” by David Plotkin. This book is a practical guide to data stewardship, an essential component of data governance, including managing data privacy and protection.

Online resources


  1. A Practical Guide to Data Protection under the GDPR by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). This guide provides practical advice on implementing data protection practices required under the GDPR.
  2. Preparing for the GDPR: 12 Steps to Take Now by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK. This guide offers a practical step-by-step approach to preparing for the GDPR.
  3. OpenGDPR offers a variety of resources for understanding and implementing GDPR compliance.
  4. GDPR.eu is a resource for understanding the GDPR, including a comprehensive list of GDPR requirements, FAQs, and a blog with relevant articles.
  5. Online courses on sites like Coursera, Udemy, or LinkedIn Learning often offer practical, comprehensive courses on GDPR and data governance.

Remember, the implementation of data governance and ensuring GDPR compliance requires understanding, planning, and continuous effort. These resources will provide a good starting point, but consulting with legal and data governance experts within your industry can be beneficial.


Bringing it all together

GDPR compliance and data governance is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring, training, and adjustments to meet evolving requirements and business needs. Whether you are a data professional, privacy officer, or business leader, this guide equips you with the knowledge and tools to navigate GDPR and establish a robust data governance framework that fosters trust, accountability, and compliance.



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