General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) outlines an expanded system of data rights for EU residents.

Adopted in 2016 and enforced last year (May, 2018), the king of privacy regulations replaced the outdated 1995 directive. Make no mistake: this event fundamentally changed the rules of the game.

The main purpose behind it is to tighten and harmonise data privacy laws across the continent.

In the process, GDPR offers EU citizens higher protection against grave threats lurking in the cyber world. Most notably, it should keep the scourge of data and privacy breaches in check.

Yes, this implies way more rights and freedoms for everyone residing in the EU. Data subjects will have greater control over traces their digital life leaves behind.

Alas, most businesses still struggle to grasp the requirements, while others simply ignore them. Both of these options bear perilous repercussions. Well, we’re here to set the record straight.

Keep reading for all you need to know about GDPR and the impact it could have on your business operations.

Brave New World of Privacy Regulations

GDPR is a single most important data regulation overhaul in the past two decades.

Organisations from all around the world have taken notice. This state of affairs is indicative of broader developments. We live in a highly interconnected and data-driven world.

Data and privacy breaches make headlines and give business owners many headaches.

I know what you’re thinking already, but let us assure you. Despite a messy divorce between the UK and EU looming over, regulation will remain vital on both sides of the channel.

This is due to its extraterritorial scope. Simply put, GDRP applies to all organisations processing personal data of EU subjects. That also includes exportation of personal data outside the EU.

Your location is not relevant as long as you’re collecting information from EU residents.

The act of ‘collecting’ refers to anything from creating email databases to using website cookies. Data practices fall under the GDPR umbrella if they deal with Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Merely identifying an individual (via IP address, for instance) is enough to constitute grounds for compliance.

This is quite a wide-view definition.

So, for starters, you’ll have to identify any third-party web plugins or digital marketing tools that you use to make use of consumer data. This particularly matters for the Content Management System (CMS) users among you — keep an eye on core and plugin updates.

Upward and Onward with GDPR

This brings us to several key requirements you would be wise to heed.

First off, businesses must embrace a whole new approach to managing data.

Privacy by Design” is a crucial concept to illustrate the nature of the task at hand. Namely, data protection cannot be a business afterthought anymore.

GDRP prompts you to take a set of organisational and technical measures. They are the backbone of the control system for mitigating the risks to personal data.

So, know exactly what data you’re storing, analyzing, and disseminating. Come up with a detailed plan for how to go about these processes.

Set order to your records and prepare the website. Stop amassing data just for the sake of it. Clean up mailing lists and restrict data sharing policies.

The less data you have, the less chance there is for misuse.

You can limit the amount via forms that require data for processing purposes only. Oh and try not to use plugins that automatically store form data.

It also helps to have legitimate reasons for gathering data. Think in terms of something more meaningful than “prolonged use of a website”.

Ideally, you also possess written documentation justifying your activities. Use the GDPR Documentation Toolkit to get a clear idea on how to make a solid case for yourself.

As you can see, there are many small things that propel you closer to the compliance zone!

A Matter of Consent

The next key obligation is to create robust consent management procedures.

In other words, one must obtain explicit consent to acquire and use personal data. Usually, this entails an opt-in request, a simple popup form. It contains default answers options such as “I consent” or “I agree”.

The takeaway is users have to be able to pick an option on their own.

Moreover, you must use clear language— no misleading formulations and tricks like pre-checked boxes. You cannot quickly brush over terms and conditions in your privacy policy section either. Consent has to be acquired fair and square.

Furthermore, data subjects possess the right to access and view their data (copies of it). They can ask whether, how, why, and where this data is processed.

On the other hand, the “right to be forgotten” rule forces data processors to erase all information upon request. It also compels businesses and their third-party providers to halt any further data meddling.

Thus, to stay on the safe side, keep data only as long as necessary. You can set up an automated system for “forgetting” visitors.

Uphold to Open Book Policy

Fine-tuning privacy policies go a bit further.

One of the objectives of the new legislation is to make collection and use of data more transparent. So, get ready to flesh out and disclose your data practices.

Notice it’s also specified that organisations are to notify respective authorities when the breach occurs. You have to do it in the 72-hour timeframe. Additionally, GDPR requires you to inform customers and controllers.

You can also make things easier for customers by having up-to-date contact information. Be open whether you sell or share data.

Let people be able to reach out to you non-stop. This is a precondition for them being able to exert their rights, isn’t it?

Ultimately, all these steps are supposed to amount what GDPR calls “reasonable level” of protection. What reasonable means in the context of consumer data is open to interpretation.

What’s clear, however, is noncompliance invokes harsh fines. They go up to 4% of annual global turnover or 20 million Euros – whichever is higher. The figures are proportionate to the severity of the infringement.

So, you’re probably better off making an investment now than risking budget-sinking penalties later.

Time to Turn a New Leaf

GDRP is nothing short of a paradigm shift and soon-to-be industry gold standard.

The situation is clear and non-ambiguous: You can either step up or ship out.

If you want to collect data of EU residents, you have to do it lawful grounds. Non-compliance shouldn’t be an option really, as it could cost you dearly.

So, get familiar with the new framework. Update your policies according to ever more stringent privacy regulations. Establish functional systems and processes for data collection and manipulation.

Taking decisive action is the only way to steer clear of steep penalties. You also have a chance to win the trust and loyalty of people as a bonus. It should end up being a win-win for everyone.