Enhancing GDPR Compliance in 2023 and Beyond

With the widespread adoption of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) throughout Europe, international organizations that offer goods and services to, or monitor the behavior of, EU residents must ensure they abide by its privacy and data control requirements. Otherwise, they could face significant fines and other legal consequences.

It can be notoriously difficult to comply with the GDPR’s requirements if you don’t know where to start. Today, we’ll explore “privacy by design” – a primary principle of the GDPR – and how you can adopt it for your e-commerce brand going forward.

What is privacy by design?

Privacy by design means that organizations must prioritize privacy in their products, services, and system designs. Rather than prioritizing profit or customer data access, privacy must be the proverbial guiding star in all design principles.

The point of this is to protect customer data and ensure organizations address data privacy properly, in addition to increasing cyber resilience on a wider scale. Privacy by design can apply to many different information processes and organizational systems, including:

  • Systems design 
  • Business practices 
  • Project objectives 
  • Business standards and protocols 
  • Organizational priorities 

On a broad level, privacy by design is critical for both customers and employees.

For customers, privacy by design is important because it ensures that sensitive data, such as their names, addresses, and credit card numbers, aren’t easily accessible by potential bad actors like cyber criminals. It also provides customers with peace of mind, as they know that organizations aren’t sharing their data with third parties for marketing purposes without their permission.

Organizations can ensure that they take privacy by design into account by:

  • Creating products that don’t automatically collect data from customers 
  • Giving customers more control over their data 
  • Requesting permission to access private information 

Privacy by design is also crucial to insulate organizations from attacks. As an example, document exchange – such as sending sensitive documents from one employee to another – is one of the most common attack vectors. But it’s trivially easy for modern cyber criminals to employ means like phishing attacks and other social engineering techniques to gain access to sensitive documents.

Organizations can practice privacy by design by using the right tools and systems. For instance, you should use a DOCX editor application that respects user privacy and prevents easy access to sensitive documents from anyone who accesses a terminal. If there are other security measures in place, you can ensure that you’re GDPR-compliant and protect your intellectual property, while increasing efficiency due to faster document access.

The bottom line is it’s vital at both the customer level and the organizational level to practice privacy by design everywhere you can.

The seven principles of privacy by design

Privacy by design is characterized by seven core principles:

  1. Proactive, not reactive, and preventive, not remedial – it’s easier to prevent attacks than respond to them   
  2. Privacy as the default setting – if users wish to share their data, they can easily change their minds  
  3. Privacy embedded in design – every part of every product/service must be designed with privacy in mind  
  4. Full functionality – the user experience mustn’t be affected by privacy settings 
  5. End-to-end security – every aspect of interaction between the user and the website must be secure  
  6. Visibility and transparency – users must be notified of any data collection or similar activities  
  7. Respect for user privacy – if a user doesn’t wish to share their data/accept cookies, their wishes must be respected  

Keeping these principles in mind as you adopt the privacy-by-design philosophy will help your organization transform into a GDPR-compliant e-commerce organization in no time.

How to implement privacy by design

There are several ways you can implement privacy-by-design practices in your organization. Let’s take a closer look.

Announce your data sharing policies clearly

You should always make it a priority to announce and clearly state your data-sharing policies and procedures to your customers. This can be accomplished with a pop-up on your website that greets every new visitor, clearly breaking down your data policies, cookie usage, and more.

This helps fulfill the GDPR’s privacy-by-design directive by giving customers full awareness of how you use their data and telling them how they can customize their experience on your site.

Ask for customer permission to track or share data

Naturally, you’ll also want to ask for customers’ permission to track or share their data. The easiest way to do this is with a cookie query. As mentioned above, you should have a pop-up to greet new visitors, asking about cookies or cookie settings. Then, customers get the option whether to allow tracking cookies.

This fulfills GDPR compliance requirements and gives your customers more peace of mind. After all, they won’t feel like you are spying on them without their permission. You’ll also find that most people are willing to let you track them and collect data about their browsing habits within reason. Therefore, this extra step doesn’t have too many downsides.

Don’t pre-tick checkboxes

On your site, you might have certain checkbox forms, like email newsletter sign-up forms. You should never pre-check these by default. Doing so takes the power out of the hands of your site visitors and can make them wary of other tracking or data collection processes you have running in the background.

Instead, leave the boxes unchecked by default. That way, processes can’t progress without consumers’ consent, and your site won’t accidentally violate the GPDR if a user quickly clicks through a page without noticing the checkbox and what it refers to.

Separate and sort data wisely

It’s also wise to practice good data separation and sorting. This approach protects data by preventing it from getting mixed up unnecessarily. It also minimizes risks that might result from a data breach.

Data separation isolates data and stores it in a database so it can easily be retrieved, backed up, or recovered. The latter ensures that your data analysts use the right customer information for their goals rather than digging into customer data they don’t need, which is itself a violation of the GDPR.

Practice good database security

In addition to the above practices, make sure that your databases are secure at all times. None of these practices will make any sense or have any real effect if a cyber criminal can easily breach your databases and steal customer data.

Good antivirus software, Cloud storage monitoring, and training your employees to be aware of phishing scams or ransomware attacks are things you should be implementing organization-wide. For example, if you train your employees to be aware of the latest phishing techniques, they are less likely to accidentally allow a criminal hacker into your company’s computers, where they can steal customer data and leave your organization liable for significant damages.

Have a backup/recovery plan in place

Last but not least, don’t forget to have a solid backup and recovery plan in place. You should back up sensitive customer data at all times and develop a recovery plan in case of an outage, attack, or some other disaster.

If you have an effective recovery plan ready to go, getting your servers and customer data profiles back up and running should be no trouble. More importantly, this will provide your customers with peace of mind and ensure they have total control over the privacy of their data, even if there’s an outage or your servers run into unexpected trouble.

Wrap up

Ultimately, these principles will empower your organization for GDPR compliance. Prioritizing privacy in your design processes will go a long way toward boosting your brand reputation, maximizing customer peace of mind, and ensuring organizational security. Good luck!