Data breaches and espionage have been rampant during the past few years, and to no surprise. Owing to highly data-oriented digital landscapes and an increased dependency on vast amounts of data for even the most routine operations, the right repositories can end up being a treasure trove of information. Add to that the manner in which user data is retrieved and later manipulated, in the first place; with so many pitfalls through every step of the customer journey, it’s not easy to trust that smartphone or laptop after all.
Data collection has come far and beyond data entry and cookie dropping; it’s now done so via entry points that comprise of sensors, meters, geotags and even previous internet activity. On top of that, have you ever received emails that you never remember subscribing to? Spamming and spoofing is only a daily nuisance for most of us, but for those who aren’t so lucky or computer-literate for that matter, it can turn out to reap devastating and extremely forfeiting outcomes.
Sure, the advancement of data collection and processing has improved our lives for the better, but it has also led to the conception of numerous risk factors that end up doing more harm than good, lest any of it gets the upper hand. Therefore, data compromise is all about baring the smallest point of access to the slightest vulnerability, considering the vast number of points involved.
So what can be done to safeguard public data? Maintaining optimum security is an essential, but so is the need for regulation that holds every business to the same standard, while overseeing every part of the data protection process. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one such body that aims to protect consumers in the EU, by enabling all businesses that function within the same territory to adhere to certain polices that help manifest the same.
While the GDPR’s objective is to protect consumer data within the EU, there’s an implicit advantage in the midst of it all – data integrity. By gathering data from the right sources i.e. directly from the consumer, companies are now in a position to use only authentic data, as opposed to lists that may have been mass-generated from a third-party index website or application.
In the context of building your software, adhering to protocols laid out by GDPR is now crucial, especially if you’re dealing with data from customers in the EU. IT outsourcing companies in Sri Lanka and elsewhere are also obliged to take GDPR into account, as long as their client applications deal with customer data from the EU. Failure to abide by the GDPR policies could lead to fines as hefty as 20 million Euros or 4% of annual global turnover, whichever is higher.
As a result, there’s no doubt that the stakes are high for businesses the world over, as long as they deal with EU customer data. But making changes to software development strategies doesn’t have to be complicated, provided agencies and businesses stick to good practices when it comes to UI/UX, data management and server protection.
Short for General Data Protection Regulations, the GDPR code was put into effect on May 25th 2018 for the purpose of protecting the data of consumers based in the EU. It was more of a successor to the previous 1995 Data Protection Directive; what with numerous technological advancements throughout the past 2+ decades, there was a requirement for a more stringent and updated regulatory policy.
The GDPR therefore applies to all web and mobile-based applications, which need to ensure that relevant protocols are met. If not, companies are liable to pay fines of 20 million Euros or 4% of their annual global turnover, whichever is higher.
Contrary to popular perception, GDPR’s protocols are fairly straightforward and easy to understand. In fact, you can say that such policies should have been effective much, much earlier!
This is one of the first rules from the GDPR Act. Exactly as it suggests, the requirement is to only gather data that is required. In turn, this will prove to be convenient for companies as only what is gathered will need protection – and less data means less protection (quantitatively, of course).
Servers are important constituents for storing data, but they also influence the quality of protection that your data is bound to receive. Now that you’re on the path of rendering your software as GDPR-compliant, it’s useful to know that servers configured as per GDPR’s special standards are available for companies to make the most of, albeit at a much higher price. Other than that, you or your agency (whoever is hosting) needs to maintain a secure server that also has the capability to encrypt data for optimum protection.
Blockchain technology is also another secure and relatively cost-effective option. Depending on the size and complexity of your software, your agency will be the best source of advice on knowing which server type will suit your software the best, especially depending on your budget.
Coming back to the context of gathering only the most important and relevant data, it’s a good idea to maintain different data sets across different centralized databases. That way, these individual streams of data will not prove to be comprehensive if they are stolen, since all the data that is necessary for attribution won’t be present.
For software that deals with privacy, all settings should point to a highly private profile by default. From that point onwards, users can then be given the opportunity to customize their privacy based on their personal preferences. While the technical factors are easy to architect and implement, a design-oriented privacy interface may take more time, money and resources to create.
Privacy by design is also more subjective by nature, since it depends on what the app is supposed to achieve from both a business and customer standpoint. Again, this doesn’t include the probability that your app may need to be designed from scratch, so that its user interface adheres to the privacy protocols as laid out by the GDPR.
Although the GDPR Act is a long and comprehensive document, the rights given to users pertaining to their data can be sub-categorised as follows:
Before all of the above protocols are adhered to, asking for user consent is the most important step of the process. This is akin to scrolling through a typical online disclaimer and checking the ‘I Agree’ box. Likewise, the GDPR Act also insists on comprehensive and transparent user consent sections, and one that can be easily understood by whosoever reading it.
If you don’t have a dedicated Data Protection Officer in your team, now is the perfect time to recruit one. Considering the stringency of GDPR, documentation is a must. A Data Protection Officer will be responsible for gathering relevant information, composing necessary documents and handing them over to whosoever concerned, and is therefore a great asset to a company that is otherwise highly reliant on its web and mobile applications for sales turnovers.
Also, what happens in the event of a data breach? As per GDPR regulations, it is necessary to report the compromise to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) within 72 hours of the breach taking place. If not, companies are liable to pay up to 10 million Euros or 2% of annual global turnover (whichever is higher) in fines.
There are exceptions to this rule, but they need to be backed by substantial evidence. Otherwise, each breach report needs to contain a description about what has taken place, what has been affected, how things are being rectified and contact details of your Data Protection Officer (or someone equivalent in the absence of one).
The fact that data breaches are a serious problem is something that doesn’t need to be stressed any more, in this day and age. Add to that the immense reliance that businesses have towards data and what it can facilitate; from determining the purchase behaviour of millions of customers to predicting where consumer trends may move during the coming year, there’s nothing that data can’t accomplish – literally.
While this signifies a boon in business value, consumer options as well as the overall quality of life, it also comes with certain caveats that just cannot be ignored. The possibility of data being lost, stolen, corrupted or even held at ransom is what’s at stake, considering all what it is capable of. This is why the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is important, as it helps protect consumer data in the EU from being mishandled, manipulated or used without prior consent. Failure to abide by the policy can land companies with hefty fine tags of up to 20 million Euros or 4% annual global turnover (whichever is higher). In turn, this initiative is one that has been led quite positively, but companies also need to do their due diligence to ensure that their software applications are GDPR-compliant, so they can serve their customers as per the latest regulatory standards while also heightening brand reputation at the same time.
Starting off, gathering only the data that is required is a key step in not just reducing the resources needed to facilitate security, but also focusing on protecting data that is truly important. Subsequent to which data sets need to be protected, choosing the right server shall also influence overall security. For example, GDPR-compliant servers are easier to configure and run but come at a higher cost. On the other hand, private servers may be more affordable but take longer to configure. Speaking of servers, maintaining multiple centralized databases can also help against hack attacks, especially since different data sets can be stored across different databases. Coupled with encryption, a single data set may be prove to be ineffective, lest it is stolen.
Another way that GDPR needs to be established is through default; this means that any privacy settings need to be at their highest when a user registers/logs in, only to change them at one’s discretion. Privacy by design means that your app’s interface needs to be oriented towards maintaining safety and privacy while online. However this may depend from company to company, and if you’re trying to revamp your current application to GDPR standards, it may also require a complete overhaul from scratch.
Next, the aspect of consent comes in. Just like before, disclaimers need to be clear, transparent and easily understood by whosoever is checking the box. Last but not the least, a Data Protection Officer can be a great asset for your organization, to handle everything that pertains to data safety and integrity.