To many of the people, the GDPR is nothing more than a bunch of annoying emails from companies asking for their consent to keep in touch.
But, if you are thinking to create new software solutions in 2019 and beyond, the GDPR is something you really cannot afford to ignore if you have got an extra €20 million – which is what the European Union is ready to charge for more serious GDPR violations. In fact, individuals who are responsible for any particular great neglect against the protection of personal data and data subject rights may even face jail time.
In this article, we will take a closer look at some basic terms related to GDPR and explain several essential secured software development practices which all the software developers should learn and respect to create software that is more GDPR-compliant and future-safe.
What is GDPR?
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation in European Union law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Economic Area and European Union. GDPR aims to unify the EU’s common data protection practices by bringing more control and higher standards by affecting how companies gather, store and use data related to EU citizens.
The main purpose of the GDPR is to expand the principles from the EU’s 1995 Data Protection Directive to reflect the massive technological changes which may have transformed the world since 1995, the time of the Motorola Pager and the Zip Drive.
The GDPR requires companies to safeguard their user’s data and protect their privacy rights in a nutshell. All the companies that handle personal data of European users must build their systems and process with data protection by design or by default.
In general practice, this means GDPR gives EU residents the right to request a portable copy of their data, the right to get their data erased and the right to revoke their consent.
Regardless of its geographical location, any company that processes data comprising of EU citizens and fails to comply with the GDPR tends to receive fine up to 20 million Euro or 4 percent of its annual turnover worldwide of the preceding financial year.
When any company decides to outsource a few of its functions, it still remains responsible for the personal data that gets transferred to the outsourcing vendor. To avoid any GDPR liability, companies need to make sure that it cannot access any personally identifiable data under any circumstances that are often impossible in practice.
Get closer to GDPR compliance
It is mandatory to keep information that allows you to identify the person and the data about this person separately. Every big organization should hire a Data Protection Officer (DPO).
1. Make ‘private’ your default setting
When you start to work with any software, the users should be provided settings with maximum privacy. The protection level should remain unchanged in case any user does not make changes in the settings. The applications should not require any actions to obtain the maximum level of personal data protection.
2. Embed appropriate privacy
Try to introduce privacy into your software from the beginning even before the first bit of personal data gets into the system. Privacy should be at the core of any software and not get installed with few plugins. Lack of privacy cannot be the price for the functionality of the applications – you cannot present your users with a challenge of privacy or functionality. Such software will become illegal when GDPR comes into the picture.
3. Identify personal data and its processes
Maintain a personal data register as a separate document or a part of the Information Asset Register. Using this tool, you can keep records of personal data you collect, indicate places where it is stored, become a responsible file owner, access level, storage period, data accessibility and much more. You need to determine in advance who in your company maintains this registry.
4. Reduce personal data
The use of personal data should be reduced to the minimum and sufficient level in order to achieve the goal of processing. Minimize your user identification wherever it is possible and also embed the function of deleting unnecessary or used data. By taking such measures, you will not only protect the privacy of the users but it will also save you from a headache in case of a hacker attack on the application.
5. Record the implementation of GDPR guidelines
Companies have to follow GDPR guidelines and also need documentary proof that they are GDPR complaint. If the company forgets to document it in spite of following all the regulations; all the undocumented measures will be considered unimplemented. That’s the reason why companies need to hire DPOs who shall perform the duty of documenting all the measures undertaken towards GDPR compliance.
6. Get some informed consent for processing personal data
It is mandatory to obtain consent from users in advance to process the data. The consent must include how the information will be processed and who & how will that data get transmitted to another country. The text should be understandable and unambiguous. Along with this, all the silent activities should require another consent, for instance, the users need to tick the ‘receive newsletters’ item themselves voluntarily.
7. Implementation of information security
The guidelines have increased penalty charges for leaked information or data. From now, companies will not only pay for hacker attacks but will also pay for inadequate care of privacy, integrity, and user accessibility of personal data. Hence, it is mandatory to take care of the protection system during the initial stages of software development as software creators are free to select from any protection measure which they find relevant.
The GDPR is altering software development practices by forcing software development companies to take steps towards better application design and greater security. This will inevitably lead to some companies leaving the market due to their inability to get adapted but at the end of the day, it should reduce the number of data breaches and disclose them sooner by protecting the interest of end users. Keep Learning!