GDPR Series #10: Navigating Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs)

GDPR Data Protection Impact Assessments

GDPR is designed to protect data security and privacy under any situation, and this is why non-compliance can attract heavy fines for organizations. At the same time, GDPR lays down the ways by which you can avoid non-compliance, and Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) are one such provision.

In this article on our GDPR series, let’s see what DPIAs are, how you can conduct them, and what you can do to comply with these provisions.

What are DPIAs?

Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) are mandated by GDPR when you start a new project. These assessments identify and mitigate any data security and privacy risks that can arise when you start something new, which in turn can affect your organization and the data subjects.

Let’s now see what GDPR states about DPIAs.

Article 35

Article 35 of GDPR handles DPIAs and mandates this assessment for any new high-risk processing project. In particular, it is mandatory in the following circumstances.

  • When the collected data is used for automated processing like profiling, which can impact a natural person significantly.
  • If you will be processing in large volumes, the special categories of data that fall under articles 9(1) or 10.
  • If you plan to systematically monitor publicly accessible data on a large scale.

It must be done under the advice and supervision of a Data Protection Officer (DPO). This individual is responsible for listing all the data processing activities that are not subject to the DPIA. The DPO must also submit this list to the Board defined under Article 68.

Moreover, if the new project involves offering goods or services to the data subjects or the monitoring of their behavior across the member states, then the consistency principles under Article 63 will apply.

Next, GDPR specifies what the DPIA must cover, and they include:

  • A clear description of the purpose and processing of the operations.
  • An assessment of the proportionality of the operations.
  • A detailed assessment of the risks to the rights and freedom of the data subjects.
  • The measures planned to address these risks, including the implementation of security controls.

Also, you must ensure that the above assessment meets the approved codes of conduct under Article 40. Where appropriate, you must also get the opinion and permission of the data subjects before using their data. If there are specific laws in the member states that cover this new data processing activity, you must cover them as well.

Thus, these are the GDPR provisions related to DPIAs. Next, let’s see how you can conduct DPIAs to ensure compliance.

Best Practices for Conducting DPIAs

GDPR only lays down what aspects your DPIA must cover, and not the exact steps for implementing them. To ease this process, we have laid down the broad steps you can take for performing DPIAs.

Step #1: Determine When a DPIA is Required

As a first step, decide if you need a DPIA before starting a new activity. GDPR mandates these assessments only if you plan to start data processing activities that can significantly impact the rights of data subjects.

Step #2: Prepare for the DPIA

Gather information about the processing activity, including the types of personal data involved, the purposes of processing, and potential risks. Involve key stakeholders, like data protection officers (DPOs) and legal advisors, for their input and expertise throughout the process.

Step #3: Conduct the DPIA

Next, follow the aspects laid down in Article 35 like providing the scope and context, evaluating the proportionality, identifying data subject’s rights, and assessing security measures.

Step #4: Propose Risk Mitigation Measures

As you conduct the DPIA, you will identify gaps and the need for additional safeguards like data minimization, encryption, or access controls to address identified risks. Consult stakeholders, including data subjects, DPOs, and others, on proposed measures and their impact to gain valuable insights.

Step #5: Document the DPIA

Keep a detailed record of the DPIA, including the processing description, risk assessment, and proposed measures. This documentation should be thorough and available for review by supervisory authorities when necessary.

Step #6: Review and Approve

Present the DPIA results and proposed measures to decision-makers for approval and implementation. Incorporate DPIA findings into data protection practices and procedures to ensure alignment with GDPR requirements.

Step #7: Monitor and Update

Continuously assess the processing activity to ensure compliance, and identify any new risks that may emerge. Regularly review and update the DPIA as needed, especially when there are changes to processing activities, to ensure the DPIA remains relevant and effective.

With these steps, you can use DPIAs to take a proactive approach to data protection. Besides ensuring compliance, the above steps can also offer the following advantages:

  • Early identification of risks.
  • Enhanced trust among stakeholders.
  • Informed decision-making.
  • Continuous risk evaluation and management.

Final Words

In all, DPIAs are essential when starting any new activity that can potentially impact the rights and freedom of your data subjects. GDPR mandates specific situations when they are necessary and provides guidelines on how to conduct them. In this article, we also listed out the steps involved in conducting DPIAs and the benefits that come with them. We hope this information comes in handy to plan your DPIAs.

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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