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GDPR Compliance Meaning

Read to learn the origin of the GDPR compliance meaning, the principles of data processing and data privacy, and how your organization can become compliant.
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6 min read
August 29, 2022
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The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the world's most important set of rules about personal data protection. Compliance demonstrates to your customers and partners that your organization has followed the law to protect the integrity of personal data. Non-compliance may result in security breaches, steep fines, and a poor brand reputation. 

Read on to learn the origin of the GDPR, the principles of data processing and data privacy, and how your organization can become compliant.

When did GDPR come into force? 

The GDPR Data Protection Act originated in the European Union and is the result of an evolution of general privacy regulations. According to the International Privacy Professionals Association, legislation about personal data protection began ramping up in the 1980s. In 1995, the European Data Protection Directive came into effect and detailed rules for personal data protection and sharing. 

In 2009, the European Commission started a conference based on new challenges for data privacy, given modern communication methods and technologies like cloud computing. The goal was to reform the 1995 rules eventually. The GDPR officially came into effect in May 2018. While the GDPR originated in the EU, it applies to organizations anywhere as long as they collect or target data related to the people in the EU. This includes the US. 

The GDPR meaning is to regulate how companies handle and share personal data. A number of organizations were guilty of collecting and sharing their consumer's personal information without their consent. The GDPR gives consumers more agency over how they share their personal data with organizations. Companies must adhere to specific standards when they collect, manage, and store personal data. They also have to inform their customers about their data collection and usage and get their consent.

The 7 GDPR principles of data processing 

The following summarizes the seven GDPR principles related to processing personal data. Each principle ensures compliance with data privacy and protection.

  1. Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency. When data is related to individuals, it must be processed lawfully, fairly, and transparently. To be lawful, data must fulfill a specific purpose, be necessary for research, or the subject must give consent. For children, processing personal data is lawful at age 16 years old. If they're under 16, they must obtain special permission from a parental figure. Processing personal data revealing information like race, sexual orientation,  political opinions or religious beliefs is usually prohibited. However, it may be lawful if the subject gives consent to at least one or more of those categories.   
  2. Purpose limitation. Data must be collected for specific, explicit, and legitimate purposes. The data must not be further processed in a manner that doesn't comply with those purposes. However, it's permissible if further processing is for archiving public interest, scientific, historical research, or statistical purposes.
  3. Data minimization. Processing personal data must be adequate, relevant, and limited to what's necessary for the specific purpose.
  4. Accuracy. The data must be accurate and kept up to date when necessary. If personal data is inaccurate, data controllers must take every reasonable step to ensure they erase it or rectify it without delay.
  5. Storage limitation. If the data involves identifying the subjects, controllers must keep it in the form of its designated purpose. However, there are exceptions for data related to the public interest, or for scientific, historical, or other specific purposes.
  6. Integrity and confidentiality. The data must be processed in a manner that ensures there's appropriate security of the personal data. The security includes protection against unauthorized and unlawful processing, accident loss, destruction, or damage.
  7. Accountability. The controller is responsible for and must demonstrate compliance with the other preceding principles. 

The advantages of GDPR compliance 

The purpose of GDPR compliance is to ensure data privacy and protection. An organization gains a wealth of benefits if they're GDP compliant. According to TechTarget, being GDPR compliant is a key differentiator for businesses. Compliance can help an organization streamline and improve critical business functions. 

One major advantage is proving trust and credibility. A GDP-compliant organization demonstrates to its customers and partners that it has followed the legal best practices for data processing, privacy, and protection. This can also boost an organization's brand reputation.

Another advantage is that compliance makes data management and business process management easier. If an organization launches data protection initiatives, it may appoint at least one official to be in charge of data use and compliance issues. That person can identify, track, and map how data flows through the organization. Working toward GDPR compliance may cause an organization to take a closer look at their data processing and lifecycle workflows. They can then spot gaps in security and clean up flawed or obsolete information.

Following the GDPR requirements can stave off a good deal of monetary and reputational damage as well as legal hassle. An organization faces enormous consequences if they're not compliant. Penalties depend on the severity and circumstances of the organization's violation. The GDPR says non-compliance fines can be as much as 4 percent of the organization's global revenue, or at least $21 million USD.

One of the biggest reported GDPR violations of 2023 was committed by Meta. The Irish Data Protection Commission has fined Meta 1.2 billion euros for transferring personal data from European to US users without proper data protection. Following the requisite protocol for managing personal data can stave off huge penalties.

GDPR compliance requirements for US organizations

While the GDPR originated in the European Union, its scope is extra-territorial, meaning It also applies to countries outside the EU. Here are guidelines specifically for US companies:

Do an information audit for EU personal data. 

First, you must confirm that your organization needs to comply with the GDPR. Determine what personal data you process and if any of it is from people in the EU. If you do, determine if the processing activities relate to offering goods or services to the data subject, whether they pay for them or not. Check Recital 23 to clarify if your activities apply to GDPR. Odds are good that they do. If they do, continue to the next steps.

Tell your customers why you're processing their data. 

Consent is one of the most important legal justifications for your processing other people's data. The GDPR defines specific conditions for consent in order to process personal data lawfully. A few of the requirements include:

  • the data subject has given consent for at least one specific purpose
  • the processing is a requirement for a legal obligation
  • an official authority requires it or it's necessary for a public interest task

There are also conditions for consenting itself. Some of them are that when a duty requires processing personal data, the controller must demonstrate that the subject has given consent. View GDPRs Article 6 for more details. 

Article 12 requires you to give clear and transparent information about your activities to your data subject. You may have to update your privacy policy. 

Assess your data processing activities and enhance security. 

The GDPR has a Data Protection Impact Assessment template to use when you plan your project. Implement data security initiatives like end-to-end encryption to reduce the chances of a data breach. 

Maintain a data privacy processing agreement with your vendors. 

You'll be accountable if your third-party vendors violate GDPR requirements. These include email vendors, cloud storage providers, and any other subcontractors that may process personal data.

Appoint a data protection officer if necessary. 

The GDPR details some of the qualifications the management-level officer must have.

Know your duties in the event of a data breach. 

This means a data hack or any other exposure of personal data. Article 33 details what a controller must do. 

If applicable, comply with cross-border laws on data transferring and sharing. 

This means organizations that transfer data to non-EU countries. The Data Protection Commission has deemed specific countries, territories, and sectors to have an adequate level of transfer, so they don't need specific authorization. Article 45 explains more about how the Commission decides an adequate transfer. 

The GDPR's future and your organization

As communication channels and data sharing multiply exponentially, news and guidelines about data processing and sharing will rapidly evolve. 

Confirming compliance with the GDPR may seem like a formidable task. Today, organizations must not only follow the original GDPR but also data privacy laws in different countries. That's why we at Ketch are dedicated to taking the agony out of ensuring your organization's GDPR compliance.

The Ketch Data Permissioning Platform lets you set broad policies for how your organization handles data. You can tag every piece of personal data you collect with permits that say how you'll use the data. If developers want to know if it's permissible to share personal data, all they need is a simple query. They can continue their operations without worrying if processing certain data violates privacy laws. You can also perform regulation-specific risk assessments, privacy-protected data mapping, and much more. 

If you want help to ensure compliance with data regulations, request a demo.

Related reading

The Ketch guide to GDPR compliance 

GDPR compliance checklist

GDPR vs. CCPA/CPRA compliance: what’s the difference?

Read to learn the origin of the GDPR compliance meaning, the principles of data processing and data privacy, and how your organization can become compliant.

Read time
6 min read
August 29, 2022
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