GDPR

What is a Privacy Impact Assessment? Does My Business Need One?

Privacy is progressing across the US and it stops for no one – so what does it take to keep up? Well, as an increasing number of privacy regulations following the example of GDPR and CPRA arise, it naturally follows that more companies than ever are going to be newly bound to rigorous sets of privacy standards. In the interest of meeting those standards it’s crucial to have some standardized form of data system assessment to weed out privacy risks, which is exactly the role Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) fill. These assessments are thus primed to become an invaluable asset for organizations newly assessing privacy risk at the behest of legislation, as well as existing privacy-conscious organizations aiming to maintain their privacy posture – so it’s a great time to take a look at what a PIA is, whether or not you need one, and what one entails.

What it is

Essentially, a PIA is a tool that enables organizations to identify, categorize, and ultimately remediate privacy risks present in their data systems in accordance with relevant legislative standards. The objectives of these assessments are a few: to verify the data system’s privacy conformity with organizational and legal requirements, to determine the privacy risks present in the data system, and to evaluate solutions to mitigate identified risks. 

Who Needs it

Understanding what constitutes a PIA and its goals, a natural follow-up question would be who needs one. The necessity of one largely depends on the requirements of whatever regulations your business must abide by – different frameworks require these assessments at different stages of data handling. Odds are, however, that if you are bound to privacy legislation and handle customer Personally Identifiable Information (PII) you will at minimum be required to conduct a PIA when said data is newly processed or sold. Additionally, whenever significant changes/additions are made to the data system’s structure or its processes, then a PIA is typically highly-advised, if not required outright. 

Even past the explicitly-required cases, most any organization that handles PII should heavily consider conducting these assessments at least every three years. Remember that these assessments aren’t just a box to tick for compliance’s sake – they exist to help protect consumer information from undue exposure and thus protect the company who would be held liable. At its core, a PIA is a tool to mitigate risk and should be considered as such.

How it Works

So – if you decide upon conducting a PIA, what exactly does it involve? Generally, the assessment takes the form of both an analysis process and a report document. The process itself will vary again depending on the regulatory requirements an organization faces, but will typically include steps like the following:

  • An identification of the scope of the assessment along with the staff and stakeholders associated with in-scope systems
  • A categorization of data should take place, categorizing them according to their sensitivity 
  • A technical mapping of where and how information flows throughout its system: from acquisition to storage to transfer to use to disposal
  • An analysis and cataloging of privacy risks based on the data system’s state – take note to consider non-technical privacy impacts as well, an example being how easily communicable an otherwise safe process is to concerned consumers
  • A determination of whether or not the risk of holding different types of PII is proportional and reasonable to its business purpose
  • A consideration of mitigatory measures that could be taken to further protect the data system’s privacy as well as potential future data gathered

At the conclusion of the above steps a PIA report should be prepared documenting the results. The report should be easily interpreted and comprehensive of the steps and considerations taken – aid to this end can be found from online templates and/or privacy consultants. After the report’s completion, ensure that it’s published and sent where necessary by regulation. Ultimately, the PIA report is a living document. Ongoing reviews of the report should take place where there is any progress toward implementing the identified PIA recommendations or if any changes to the system are documented. 

With the PIA’s goals, use-case, and process in mind, hopefully you’re left with a clearer picture of these assessments going forward. Like many system assessments, the process can seem daunting at first, but with some practice it will become a tremendously helpful tool in your GRC toolbox, helping you adapt and thrive in our privacy-conscious future.

Need some help conducting your Privacy Impact Assessment? Let CyberData Pros carry one out for you, from scoping to publication. Contact us now for a free consultation and to learn more about our services.

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Virtual Chief Privacy Officer Services That Make Sense for Your Business

Let’s face it; privacy can be a pain for businesses. It can feel like a burden on your company’s time and resources, and be overwhelming to manage with mountains of governmental oversight and regulation to navigate. As the digital age continues forward, it has become more and more obvious that these are not just growing pains that will simply go away. If you own or manage a small to medium sized business, this fact is likely something that has more than just crossed your mind over recent years as you continued to grow. You may be asking yourself; “Am I prepared to handle this data?”, “What kind of risks am I currently accepting?”, “How do I know if my business is handling compliance in a proper way?”.

Enter the Chief Privacy Officer or CPO. The CPO role is designed to answer all these questions, as well as alleviate the burden of data privacy and security compliance. This includes an ever-growing list of international and domestic privacy regulations such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), CPRA (California Privacy Rights Act), CPPA (Canadian Consumer Privacy Protection Act), VCDPA (Virginia Consumer Data Privacy Act). A CPO possesses the expertise to build and guide a business through these arduous security and privacy processes. This encompasses simpler things such as a privacy policy, all the way to the not-so-simple things like international consumer data laws and security compliance for the company’s entire network and data infrastructure.

As you might imagine, a role like this is not filled easily, nor cheaply. CPO’s often have decades of experience with paychecks to match, and are in increasingly high demand with the exponential growth of digital and international market spaces. So how is a small to medium business expected to acquire one? Can your business support another C-level paycheck? How about another big, expensive office space? What about supporting staff and equipment? You can see how quickly hiring and implementing a CPO can become a struggle in its own right, especially when you may already be stretched thin in a period of rapid growth, ie, when you might need one the most. Well, there’s a solution for that as well.

Modern problems require modern solutions, which is exactly what a vCPO, or virtual Chief Privacy Officer is meant to be. A vCPO, sometimes referred to as CPO-as-a-Service, can offer experience, knowledge, and expertise in the data privacy and security field that so many quickly growing businesses need, without the daunting costs, resource drain, and complexity associated with building what amounts to an entire new division of the company. The vCPO can offer any and all solutions a traditional CPO can. This includes understanding and implementing both international and domestic privacy regulations, company data ethics and practices such as handling PII (Personally Identifiable Information), as well as incident response planning and documentation. So what allows a vCPO to do all this and still save money? The answer is scalability. A vCPO solution can grow, shrink, and customize itself to the exact needs and challenges of your business as it stands, and as it changes. It brings its own support and resources to you in a neat and tidy package, giving you the ability to focus on growth, and getting privacy and security out the way!

If you feel have additional questions or need a virtual Chief Privacy Officer, contact CyberData Pros and we can help. Let us help put together a plan and keep your business in full compliance.

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