Data Protection Policy: Key Elements to Include and 3 Best Practices

Data Protection

Data Protection Policy: Key Elements to Include and 3 Best Practices

What Is Data Protection Policy?

A Data Protection Policy (DPP), while not a legal requirement, serves as a crucial security protocol to systematize the utilization, oversight, and governance of data within an organization. Its paramount purpose is to safeguard and secure every piece of data that an organization handles, stores, or processes, ensuring that it complies with data protectio standards and regulations.

Related content: Read our guide to data protection regulations

A comprehensive DPP should extend its coverage to all data preserved within the organization’s core infrastructure. This includes data housed in on-site storage equipment, remote locations, and cloud-based services. Its primary role is to fortify the security and integrity of all data, whether at rest or in transit.

By establishing a robust DPP, an organization exhibits its commitment to protecting consumer data privacy. In situations such as compliance audits or data breaches, the policy can serve as compelling evidence of the organization’s dedication to data protection principles.

A well-rounded DPP should encapsulate:

  • The extent of data protection required
  • Data protection strategies and policies deployed by relevant entities including individuals, departments, devices, and IT environments
  • Pertinent legal or compliance stipulations for data protection
  • The assigned roles and responsibilities associated with data protection, including data custodians and roles explicitly accountable for data protection activities.

 

In essence, a DPP is more than a policy; it is an affirmation of an organization’s commitment to safeguarding data privacy and maintaining data integrity.


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Note: This article is part of a series on Data Protection.


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What’s the Difference Between a Data Protection Policy and a Privacy Policy?

A privacy policy is a document that explains to customers how the organization collects and processes their data. It is made available to the public by organizations required to comply with privacy regulations.

A data protection policy is an internal document created for the purpose of establishing data protection policies within the organization. It is made available to company employees, as well as third parties, responsible for handling or processing sensitive data.

Key Elements to Include in Your Data Protection Policy

Your data protection policy must include at least the following elements:

Scope

The first section of your data protection policy should clearly define its scope. This includes identifying the types of personal data that your organization collects, processes, and stores, as well as the purpose for which this data is used. By establishing the scope of your policy, you can ensure that all relevant data protection issues are addressed and that your organization remains compliant with applicable regulations.

Additionally, the scope of your policy should also cover any third-party service providers that your organization works with, as well as the measures that are in place to ensure that these providers abide by the same data protection standards. This is particularly important if your organization transfers personal data across borders, as different jurisdictions may have varying data protection laws.

Definitions

Before diving into the specific elements of a data protection policy, it is essential to establish clear definitions for key terms and concepts. This will ensure that all stakeholders understand the scope and requirements of the policy. Some important terms to define include:

  • Personal data: Information relating to an identified or identifiable individual, such as name, identification number, location data, online identifiers etc.
  • Processing: Operation performed on personal data, such as collection, recording, organization, structuring, storage, adaptation, retrieval, destruction, etc.
  • Data controller: The entity that determines the purposes and means of the processing of personal data.
  • Data processor: The entity that processes personal data on behalf of the data controller.
  • Data subject: The individual whose personal data is being processed.
  • Consent: A freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s agreement to the processing of their personal data.

GDPR Principles

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a comprehensive data protection law applicable to organizations operating within the European Union (EU) or processing personal data of EU citizens. The GDPR outlines several core principles that should be reflected in your organization’s data protection policy:

  • Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency: Personal data must be processed in a lawful, fair, and transparent manner, with clear communication to data subjects about how their data is being used.
  • Purpose limitation: Personal data should only be collected for specific, explicit, and legitimate purposes, and not further processed in a manner incompatible with those purposes.
  • Data minimization: The collection of personal data should be limited to what is necessary for the intended purpose, and no more.
  • Accuracy: Personal data must be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.
  • Storage limitation: Personal data should not be stored for longer than necessary for the intended purpose.
  • Integrity and confidentiality: Personal data must be processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security, including protection against unauthorized or unlawful processing, accidental loss, destruction, or damage.
  • Accountability: Data controllers must be able to demonstrate compliance with the GDPR principles, including having appropriate policies and procedures in place.

Lawful Processing of Data

Your organization’s data protection policy should clearly outline the lawful bases for processing personal data, and provide guidance on obtaining consent and documenting the chosen basis for processing. Some possible lawful bases include:

  • Consent: The data subject has given their clear and unambiguous consent for the processing of their personal data.
  • Contract: The processing is necessary for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is a party, or to take steps at the request of the data subject before entering into a contract.
  • Legal obligation: The processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation to which the data controller is subject.
  • Vital interests: The processing is necessary to protect the vital interests of the data subject or another individual.
  • Public interest: The processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the data controller.
  • Legitimate interests: The processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the data controller or a third party, except where such interests are overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject.

Roles and Responsibilities

A clear assignment of roles and responsibilities is crucial for effective data protection. Your organization’s data protection policy should define the roles of data controllers, data processors, and data protection officers (if applicable), and outline their respective responsibilities. This may include:

  • Ensuring compliance with data protection regulations and organizational policies.
  • Implementing and maintaining appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect personal data.
  • Responding to data subject access requests and managing data subject rights.
  • Conducting data protection impact assessments, where required.
  • Coordinating with supervisory authorities and other relevant stakeholders.
  • Providing training and raising awareness about data protection among employees.

Data Breach Notification Procedures

In the event of a data breach, it is essential to have a well-defined process in place for notifying affected individuals and relevant authorities. A comprehensive data protection policy should include clear guidelines on:

  • Identifying and containing the breach.
  • Assessing the potential risks and consequences of the breach.
  • Notifying the appropriate supervisory authority within the required timeframe (e.g., within 72 hours under the GDPR).
  • Communicating the breach to affected data subjects, if required by law or deemed necessary to mitigate risks.
  • Implementing measures to prevent future breaches and documenting the incident and response.

Rights of Data Subjects

Data protection regulations, such as the GDPR, grant certain rights to individuals in relation to their personal data. Your organization’s data protection policy should detail how these rights will be upheld, including procedures for:

  • Providing data subjects with access to their personal data.
  • Rectifying inaccurate or incomplete personal data.
  • Erasing personal data when it is no longer necessary for the intended purpose, or when the data subject withdraws their consent.
  • Restricting the processing of personal data under certain circumstances.
  • Allowing data subjects to object to the processing of their personal data for specific purposes.
  • Facilitating data portability, enabling data subjects to receive their personal data in a commonly used, machine-readable format, and transmit data to another data controller.

Security and Record Keeping

To ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of personal data, organizations must implement appropriate technical and organizational measures. Your data protection policy should detail the security measures that will be taken to protect personal data, such as:

  • Access controls and authentication mechanisms to prevent unauthorized access to personal data.
  • Encryption of personal data to protect against unauthorized disclosure.
  • Regular backups and disaster recovery procedures to ensure the availability of personal data.
  • Monitoring and logging of access to personal data to detect and respond to security incidents.

Your data protection policy should also outline record-keeping requirements, such as documenting the lawful bases for processing personal data, data subject consent, and data protection impact assessments.

Contact Information

Finally, your data protection policy should provide clear contact information for data subjects and supervisory authorities. This may include:

  • Contact details for the data protection officer or other responsible person within the organization.
  • Instructions for submitting data subject access requests or complaints.
  • Contact information for relevant supervisory authorities, such as data protection authorities or consumer protection agencies.

By providing clear and accessible contact information, you can demonstrate your organization’s commitment to transparency and accountability in data protection.

Implementing a Data Protection Policy

A data protection policy should not remain a theoretical document. Rather, it should be implemented as part of the overall policies and governance of the organization, and treated in the same manner.

Here are several practices to consider when implementing your data protection policies:

  • Add it to the staff handbook—introduce the policy to your staff. Make sure they read it and understand they are required to adhere to the policy.
  • Provide a summarized version—if the policy is long, provide your staff with a summary that covers the main aspects and practices they are required to follow.
  • Offer training and supervision—when first implementing the policy, provide your staff with the training needed to effectively practice organizational data protection standards. Make sure training is provided according to individual roles and work practices.
  • Inform relevant third-parties—if your organization requires external contractors and partners to comply with the data protection policy, they should be provided with a copy. Additionally, you should make sure to add relevant contract clauses.

3 Best Practices for Building Your Data Protection Policy

The following best practices can help you build a successful data protection policy.

Understand the GDPR

Make sure you know what the General Data Protection Regulation is about and keep up to date with new policies.

The GDPR aims to give EU residents better control over how their data is processed. The existing legislation stipulates that individuals can request a copy of their personal data via a subject access request (SAR), and the request must be processed within 30 days. Individuals can also request that their data be amended or deleted, unless there is a legal justification to retain the data.

GDPR also aims to standardize personal data protection across the EU. While data protection authorities in each country have some autonomy, they must work together closely to ensure that data protection is managed in a uniform manner.

Related content: Read our guide to GDPR data protection

Take Inventory of Sensitive Data

In collaboration with IT, create a comprehensive inventory cataloging the storage locations of sensitive company data (in both on-premise and cloud-based applications).

The inventory should include the following analyses:

  • HR system data (i.e. employee records, payroll, health and retirement benefits)
  • Unstructured data residing in company equipment, remote servers and email accounts
  • Persons with view or edit access to data
  • The volume of data and aging

Establish Guidelines for Your Data Privacy Protection Policy

Outline the principles of your DPP and provide guidelines that clarify your organization’s data privacy posture. Consult stakeholders and experts to understand the needs of your organization and assess your ability to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of data on every system.

Research the organization to determine:

  • What data is collected
  • How long it is retained (and if this complies with regulations)
  • Whether data is openly available or had limited access (and monitoring)
  • The measures in place to protect data
  • Whether data is used appropriately (according to the purpose of its collection)

 

Related content: Read our guide to data protection strategy

Data Protection with Cloudian Secure Storage

Data protection requires powerful storage technology. Cloudian’s storage appliances are easy to deploy and use, let you store Petabyte-scale data and access it instantly. Cloudian supports high-speed backup and restore with parallel data transfer (18TB per hour writes with 16 nodes).

Cloudian provides durability and availability for your data. HyperStore can backup and archive your data, providing you with highly available versions to restore in times of need.

In HyperStore, storage occurs behind the firewall, you can configure geo boundaries for data access, and define policies for data sync between user devices. HyperStore gives you the power of cloud-based file sharing in an on-premise device, and the control to protect your data in any cloud environment.

Learn more about data protection with Cloudian.

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