Websites operated by mom-and-pop businesses to large corporate titans face a looming deadline to comply with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) if they collect, store or distribute personally identifiable information of EU citizens.
While a number of US-based companies may believe the EU's GDPR requirement does not apply to them -- think again, and fast. The deadline to adhere to the regulation is May 25 and may come with steep fines for non-compliance.
And what is the purpose of the GDPR as it relates to websites?
"It's all about transparency of communication regarding how the website and company will use the data in question and making sure that they clearly state what the rights of the individual are relating to accessing, objecting, and ultimately, removing the data that has been collected by the organization," Rick Hemsley, managing director of Accenture Security, told Security Now.
Common missteps in GDPR website compliance
Although the GDPR compliance deadline has not hit, the Data Privacy Act of 1998 serves as a yardstick in terms of common missteps companies may encounter in trying to comply with the GDPR, Hemsley said.
"It is likely that most organizations will stumble on their ability to provide access to data and their ability to delete it either when legitimately asked to by the customer or when it falls out of retention," he explains.
Another challenging area for companies includes the way that they communicate clearly with customers regarding their privacy policies. Under the GDPR, the information is required to be clear and designed for the average lay person to understand, rather than written in "legalese," Hemsley added.
GDPR website compliance steps
Under GDPR, there are several key steps website operators need to take to be compliant with the regulations, Enza Iannopollo, a security and risk analyst for Forrester, told Security Now.
Here are the four steps businesses should take:
- First step: Review and identify all the personal customer information that you and your third-party partners collect and store on your website and distribute. For example, what information are you collecting and are you and your third-party partners asking permission to collect this information?
- Third step:Talk to your attorneys to help identify the risks and ensure your processes comply with GDPR, as well as work with your tech team to build the needed safeguards to collect the data, evaluate it and remove it.
- Fourth step: Remove personally identifiable information after its intended and customer-approved use. This step can be accomplished by either deleting the information or masking it, so it is anonymous but can still be used for aggregation purposes. "Data is not only an asset, but it is also a liability," Iannopollo said.
Hemsley agrees with Iannopollo on that assessment about data and further adds:
GDPR presents a real opportunity for organizations to drive data efficiencies throughout their organization. Organizations will be shedding data that they don't need, don't have a right to hold, and ultimately, costs them money to store. By removing unnecessary data, organizations not only increase operational and processing efficiency, but they save money, and, if they get it right, engender greater trust with their customer base which can be translated into more profitable and active customers.
— Dawn Kawamoto is an award-winning technology and business journalist, whose work has appeared in CNET's News.com, Dark Reading, TheStreet.com, AOL's DailyFinance, and The Motley Fool.