The importance of personal data in the modern world
In recent years, we have seen a significant increase in the value of personal data. The dynamic development of new technologies continues to pose new personal data protection challenges to the processors. Unfortunately, protecting these data is not easy in a world where one click on a dangerous attachment can cause huge damage. Pursuant to the statistics of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a hacking attack is attempted every 39 seconds. In addition, during the pandemic, the number of malicious e-mails used for cyberattacks increased by as much as 600%!
The question we are left with is what can be done to minimise the risk of negative consequences associated with a personal data protection breach.
The GDPR-compliance audit – the ultimate remedy
A personal data protection audit is an underestimated tool that allows you to really visualise the tools used by an organisation and rules followed by it in personal data protection. Simply speaking, auditing GDPR compliance consists in conducting an interview through which we review the safeguards that are currently in place. With the help of the results of the GDPR compliance audit, we have the opportunity to ensure an adequate level of security of personal data and, consequently, to minimise the risk of negative incidents. At the same time, it should be noted that a personal data protection audit is not the same as GDPR implementation. It is, however, an important starting point for the implementation of the GDPR.
If you want to find out what a GDPR compliance audit should cover, feel free to check out the GDPR Compliance Audit Checklist.
Factors influencing the quality of a GDPR compliance audit
Carrying out a personal data protection audit is simply not enough. You have to do it well! Is there one simple recipe for a high-quality GDPR compliance audit? With so many variables and the diversity of organisations, it is difficult to create a ready-made solution. However, by focusing on the factors described below, we will lay a solid foundation for a well-conducted audit.
- A competent auditor
An organisation can choose to have a personal data protection audit carried out by a specialised external company or do it by itself. To maintain objectivity, it is recommended to outsource the GDPR compliance audit. Whichever form is chosen, it is crucial to ensure that the auditor has adequate knowledge and skills in the broadly understood area of personal data protection. It is therefore not just a question of knowing the regulations, but also of understanding the essence of the processes conducted in a given entity. At the same time, the auditor is required to have at least a basic understanding of IT systems, which, in the age of digitisation, play a significant role in the operation of businesses. Of course, the person conducting the personal data protection audit is supported by the staff of the audited entity, but the success depends largely on asking the right questions and verifying the right things.
- A good plan
The key to a successful GDPR compliance audit is a well-thought-out plan that identifies the essential processes of personal data processing. The other vital factor is allocating sufficient time to specific audit activities, so that they can be carried out thoroughly. Such a plan should take into account the various elements of a GDPR compliance audit, such as interviewing staff and reviewing current documentation. Creating a good schedule is quite a challenge – what looks perfectly reasonable on paper might not be feasible in real life. Therefore, we need to consider our limitations and possibilities. The dates and times must be set with extreme prudence.
- The right tools
Even the best plan cannot be implemented without the use of the right tools, so in order for the outcome of a personal data protection audit to be meaningful, it is important to consider its methods. We need to determine whether the monitoring of a particular process requires only interviews with staff or there is also a need for an inspection of the processing location, an examination of external data storage media, preparation of questionnaires, etc. This stage is carried out simultaneously with the drawing up of the plan. Selecting the right tools allows us to determine the expected time frames for subsequent stages.
- Staff attitude
As mentioned, employees of the audited organisation may be actively involved in the GDPR compliance audit. It is important that they are informed in advance of the planned activities. Making staff aware that a personal data protection audit is aimed at improving the organisation’s performance rather than assessing their work has a positive impact on the collaboration between the auditor and the organisation.
Now that we know what to pay particular attention to, there is only one question left: Is it worth conducting a personal data protection audit? Most definitely. One of the Murphy’s Laws says: “If everything seems to be going well, you have overlooked something”. It really is not worth putting your audit off.