GDPR Series #9: Building a GDPR-Compliant Culture with Accountability

Building a Compliant Culture

Accountability is another key GDPR principle, under which, demonstrating compliance is not a one-off activity, but rather a continuous one that requires consistent time and effort. Due to this requirement, organizations must have the necessary processes and systems to prove they are safeguarding personal data at all times.

However, this is not easy because GDPR compliance requires considerable resources and processes. In this article on our GDPR series, let’s break down what accountability means and how you can make it a part of your operations to build a GDPR-compliant culture.

GDPR Provisions

Article 5(2) of GDPR states that it’s the data controller’s responsibility to demonstrate compliance with accountability, as mentioned in paragraph 1. What this essentially means is that there are two aspects of accountability – the responsibility to comply and the ability to demonstrate compliance.

If you’re wondering what the difference is, you may comply with the regulations but if you don’t have the proof like documents to prove compliance, you still fall short.

Similarly, Article 24 also touches on accountability. It states that it’s your responsibility to implement the required technical and organizational measures to demonstrate compliance with GDPR.  In other words, if you are collecting, storing, processing, or handling the personal data of EU residents, you are responsible for safeguarding it, and more importantly, proving that you are taking all the required measures for protection.

Next comes an important question – how to prove that you are taking sufficient measures?

Demonstrating Compliance

GDPR does not lay down specific guidelines to show accountability. How an organization handles and protects its data depends on factors like:

  • Size of the organization
  • Type of data.
  • Level of risk to the rights and freedom of data subjects.
  • Sensitivity of the data.

To help you navigate this aspect, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) suggests a design-by-default approach as this will naturally lead to accountability and compliance. Data protection by design and by default means that data privacy is the central tenet of your data handling process, and you will have the appropriate policies to follow this tenet throughout the data journey.

Moreover, GDPR suggests some actions to implement this approach and they are:

  • Collecting only the required data
  • Using anonymized and pseudonymized data when possible.
  • Being transparent about why you’re collecting data and how you will be using it.
  • Improving security.

Besides the above aspects, we’ll look at some best practices for ensuring accountability.

10 Best Practices for Ensuring Accountability

Below are the best practices to build a GDPR-compliant culture, so you no longer have to worry about accountability:

  1. Appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO) to oversee data handling and comply with the protection laws.
  2. Create protocols for handling and responding to data subject requests.
  3. Document all data processing activities, and ensure these documents are readily available for supervisors.
  4. Perform  Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) for high-risk processing activities to identify and mitigate potential risks to data subjects.
  5. Conduct regular audits of data processing activities to ensure compliance with GDPR and internal policies. Adjust practices as needed based on audit findings.
  6. Provide ongoing training for employees on data protection practices and GDPR compliance. Educate them on recognizing and reporting data breaches.
  7. Develop a comprehensive incident response plan to handle data breaches promptly and effectively.
  8. Ensure that the default data protection settings prioritize privacy.
  9. Evaluate third-party data processors and service providers to ensure they comply with GDPR standards and have adequate data protection measures.
  10. Regularly perform gap analysis and take the necessary steps to fix the identified areas. Also, create a data map for easy reference.

Thus, these are some measures that can help you meet the accountability regulations.

Final Words

In all, accountability is a central GDPR requirement that mandates you to take the necessary steps for data protection and demonstrate compliance with these regulations. Articles 5 and 24 of GDPR lay down the accountability requirements while the ICO offers practical tips for ensuring compliance. In this article, we looked at the best practices that help you comply with accountability and we hope they help you build a GDPR-compliant culture.

Lavanya Rathnam

Lavanya Rathnam is an experienced technology, finance, and compliance writer. She combines her keen understanding of regulatory frameworks and industry best practices with exemplary writing skills to communicate complex concepts of Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) in clear and accessible language. Lavanya specializes in creating informative and engaging content that educates and empowers readers to make informed decisions. She also works with different companies in the Web 3.0, blockchain, fintech, and EV industries to assess their products’ compliance with evolving regulations and standards.

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