Consumer permission is not compliance

GDPR and POPI compliance demand restructuring of data management practices, and deep data and process mapping.

Mervyn Mooi.

Mervyn Mooi.

The of Europe’s General Protection Regulation (GDPR) has sparked a flurry of mails and notices from businesses and suppliers asking consumers to allow them to use their personal information for brand marketing and purposes.

Companies have added opt-in notices to their sites and briefed their teams on GDPR and POPI compliance. Unfortunately for them, these measures are far from adequate for what is required to comply with data protection and privacy regulation.

Superficial GDPR and POPI compliance (such as getting consumer permission to send them information and taking broad steps to improve information security) is not true data governance, and many organisations fail to realise this.

Having policies in place or protecting information inside a system is not enough. Even data protected within an organisation can be misused or leaked by employees, whether deliberately or through an action as apparently innocent as passing on a sales lead or a job applicant’s CV to a colleague.

Effective governance and data protection still rests heavily on the discipline of the people handling the information. Therefore, when anyone in the company can access unprotected data and information, any governance mechanisms in place will be at risk.

How stringent Europe’s enforcement of GDPR will be has yet to be seen, and although South African law is not yet fully equipped to handle individuals’ lawsuits against companies for failing to protect their personal information, it is only a matter of time before someone challenges an organisation around the protection of personal information. And this is where the onus will be on the company to prove what measures it took to protect the information.

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Contingent measures for protecting data should be put in place should the discipline of people falter. One such measure (which is pinnacle for enabling/proving governance) is the mapping of the rules, conditions, checks, standards (RCCSs) as transcribed from the regulations or accords (including GDPR covering data privacy through to POPI, King III, BCBS239, KYC and PCI) to the respective accountable and responsible people, to the data domains and to the control points of processes that handle the data/information within an organisation. These mappings need to be captured and maintained within a registry.

Effective governance and data protection still rests heavily on the discipline of the people handling the information.

Building an effective and future-proof RCCS registry can be a lengthy process. But the creation and maintenance of this registry is easily achieved within practice of metadata management, which already shows the mappings, which then simply need to be linked to policies, procedures and guidelines from the accords and regulations.

A registry typically evolves over time, mapping RCCSs to people, processes and data; ultimately proving that all rules, policies and procedures are physically implemented across all processes where the data is handled.

Once the mapping registry is in place, it becomes easier to identify and prevent data breaching or information leakage. More importantly, it also allows the organisation to ensure its data management rules and handling thereof are fully aligned with legislation across the organisation.

An effective digital RCCS mapping registry allows the auditor and responsible parties to easily link processes and data to legislation and policies, or to drill down to individual data fields to track compliance throughout its lifecycle/lineage.

But regardless if an organisation has all measures and controls to ensure GDPR RCCSs are implemented, governance (including that for the protection of data/information) still needs to be proved in terms of presentation or reporting.

In other words, a full data and process tracking (or lineage) and reporting capability needs to be in place, managed by a data governance organisational structure of people and regulated by a data governance framework which includes an engagement model that would be necessary between all responsible, accountable, consulted and informed parties.

For many, this could mean rebuilding their data management operating and system models from the ground up. Organisations should be taking steps now to put in place metadata management as the foundation for enabling compliance.

To build their ability to prove governance, organisations must prioritise this “governance” mapping exercise. Few companies have achieved this ‘sweet spot’ of data governance.

As the legislative environment changes and individuals begin challenging misuse of personal information, companies will increasingly be called on to show deep mapping and deep governance. Few, if any, do this today, but the implementation of GDPR serves as a useful reminder that this process should start now.

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