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Although it’s been coming down the pipeline since 2016, the General Data Protection Reform (GDPR) is officially going into effect on May 25, and its impact will reach over 500 million users across Great Britain and the European Union.

Designed to allow EU citizens more control of their private data, GDPR intends to reduce the likelihood of fraudulent web activity and enforce strict parameters that businesses must comply with to collect, manage and protect this data responsibly. You can find more information on the basics of GDPR here.

So what does that mean for companies who operate in the digital economy and interact with customers or colleagues in the EU? Under this new GDPR model, if a breach in data security happens in relation to your business, there could be significant liability. In other words, it means you need to prepare for when the transition occurs.

To shield your organization from legal damages, ensure that a GDPR compliance strategy is geared for launch before May 25. With that date just a couple months away, here are some last-minute pointers to get ready for the impending changes.

Know What “Personal Data” Entails

In this era of interconnection, a person can be found online through multiple avenues, so it’s important to consider any possible form of identification and keep these details separate in your database. Otherwise, this information can easily be accessed and combined to violate the person’s internet security.

Think outside the basics of name, phone number or email address, and get more specific with details such as passport number, driver’s license, bank account, credit card, postal code, genetics or biometrics, IP address, workplace, union affiliation, social factors and pseudonymous (encrypted) data. If you’re unclear if something might be “personal data,” the UK-based IT Governance blog offers a thorough breakdown.

Check Your Geographic Bandwidth

Even if you don’t think your business has direct engagement with UK or EU entities, it’s a smart idea to double-check in case your partners, vendors, contractors, and automation or support teams have European connections. Whether you’re a global or domestic company, the worldwide web earned its name for a reason, and you need to be aware that data can transmit anywhere if the right security measures aren’t taken.

To protect against this back-and-forth pinging of sensitive information, find out if any suppliers or business partners might cause you indirect exposure to the EU. Follow that supply chain and determine if your organization has any kind of geographic link to the countries within the boundaries of GDPR mandate, then make adjustments to ensure that your data handling practices are in exact compliance.

Make Sure to Obtain Explicit Consent

Under this new model of identity protection, assuming that a customer has given their consent to gather and store data could mean serious legal implications for your business. The person must clearly grant their permission, and you must openly communicate what obtaining this information will be used for.

Another facet of GDPR regulation is giving customers the right to be forgotten which allows them to unsubscribe from digital marketing content and verifies their data will be erased from your records at such a time when they choose to opt-out. Since the right to be forgotten is not an optional service, it’s ideal to minimize the amount of data needed because the more you collect and retain, the higher your risk will increase, points out internet security writer and expert Riva Richmond.

Create and Maintain Accountability

When it comes to understanding how data is expended, there are two main functions—the controller and processor. The controller decides how information will be utilized, and the processor carries out those directives. As a business manager, you are the controller who has the final word, but you need other people on staff to hold you accountable and ensure there is no mishandling of personal data.

To integrate this level of accountability, more companies have started hiring Data Protection Officers (DPO) to monitor all data entry and usage practices within the organization. The role of a DPO is to reinforce GDPR compliance, train employees in this discipline and serve as the lead point-of-contact for data processing activities.  So consider adding this position to your team or find an existing staff member who can step into the role effectively.

Store and Sync Data in One Location

In order to maintain the most secure and trusted privacy setting for your customers, keep it stored on a central platform instead of dispersed in various locations. This allows for both a safe and seamless integration, rather than having to import the data from one storage file to another which might cause information to leak into cyberspace.

The most efficient method of consolidating personal data is through a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. This tool removes third-party interference, so the data is firewalled and inaccessible to anyone without the proper clearance. Just make sure to choose a reputable CRM—it’s worth the investment—as both the customers’ peace of mind and the integrity of your business depend on it.

This new legislation is about to invoke many changes to how personal data is authorized, collected, stored and managed. So the most effective step you can take is just to keep yourself informed. Know the parameters of GDPR compliance, verify that requests for consent on the website are clear and succinct, and be accountable for your actions as the data controller. May 25 is some weeks away, but the time to prepare is now.

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