Data Privacy Through Robust Data Governance: Strategies and Best Practices

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Read more about author Phil Pearce.

Today, more than ever, people are concerned about data privacy. Reflecting this, countries all over the world have introduced privacy laws – GDPR and CCPA being the biggest examples. These laws govern how businesses should collect, manage, and maintain data. This has prompted businesses to reevaluate their data collection operations. But to keep data private and secure businesses need robust data governance. Let’s explore the topic in more detail and provide some useful strategies to help you along.

How Does Data Governance Relate to Privacy? 

Data governance and privacy are intrinsically linked. After all, data governance includes all the processes for handling and managing data. To become a data-driven company, you first need strong data oversight. 

If privacy isn’t at the heart of governance, you risk facing many issues. Data might fall into the wrong hands, or you could risk leaking sensitive customer information. Most pressingly, you might run into issues with data laws. 

Effective data governance is built around four main elements. These are: 

  • Oversight: Ensure that data is being handled in line with your organizational guidelines. To carry out this role, assign a ‘data steward’.  They will monitor the management and general use of data across your organization.  
  • Quality: Only high-quality, accurate data should be collected. All data should be monitored to remove duplicates, outliers, and inaccuracies. 
  • Protection: Data should be protected by the latest cybersecurity techniques and encryption. Ensure protection allows you to meet compliance objectives outlined in legislation. 
  • Management: You must develop policies that state how data can be used in your organization. It’s important to have a full birds-eye view of the different data processes in your business. 

Key Considerations for Data Governance 

The requirements for data governance will vary from business to business. In general, there are two main factors to consider. 

Firstly, there will be regulations that are unique to your specific industry. Some industries have more stringent requirements than others. Naturally, businesses based on data, such as HR and recruitment, have much more in-depth regulations. Your data governance program will need to put these requirements at the heart of its strategy. 

The second factor that will dictate your data governance is the complexity of your data. The more in-depth and varied the data you collect, the more complex the data governance procedures needed. 

Data Privacy Best Practices 

How can you ensure your organization takes data privacy seriously in its data governance? The following best practices can help set you on the right path.  

Always Train 

Training is essential for anybody who deals with data. Courses should be varied and cover a wide range of privacy-related topics, including: 

  • Best practices for handling data. 
  • Potential risks related to data privacy. 
  • Data laws that employees must be aware of. 

Above all, employees should understand the importance of data privacy and how it applies to their role. Make sure that education doesn’t stop at training. Provide a library of privacy-related resources that employees can access when needed. To maximize engagement, ensure these materials are accessible from mobile devices or at home. 

Protect Personally Identifiable Information 

Personally identifiable information (PII), as the name suggests, is data that allows you to identify the original user. This includes information such as date of birth, contact details, or credit card information. 

Of course, sometimes it’s necessary to collect this kind of data. When doing so, legislation such as GDPR makes it clear that data should be stored safely and securely. Ensure access to PII is strictly on a ‘need to know’ basis. 

When using data for analytics purposes, be careful that all information is anonymized. Opt for a privacy-focused digital analytics approach. Many analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, can be configured for removing PII. 

Create Privacy Dashboards 

Are you on track to meet your privacy goals? Guesswork won’t get you very far, you need a set of tools to help you monitor your progress. Ideally, look for a tool that collates all relevant KPIs into a single dashboard. 

From here, leaders can make quick decisions and find information relating to different areas of data collection. For example, you can find out whether you’re utilizing marketing data privacy correctly via the number of users who have given consent for cookies vs. those who declined.   

Dashboards should be customizable, providing the information needed for quick decision-making. Tools should provide a variety of visualization options to make data more understandable. 

Have Data Deletion Procedures in Place 

A key element of legislation such as GDPR, is that customers have a right to request that their data be deleted. You must respond without undue delay when you receive a deletion request. Deletion of data should then be completed within a month. 

Without proper procedures in place, a deletion request can be daunting. Proper data governance means planning so you’re prepared when a request arrives. Below are some of the following steps you should consider introducing. 

  • Help staff understand legislation better so they know the grounds for requesting deletion and when a request can be refused.  
  • Creating a policy for recording deletion requests. 
  • Assigning staff responsible for replying to requests. 
  • Establishing a clear set of procedures outlining how data should be deleted.  

Regardless of whether you receive a deletion request or not, make sure you have procedures for deleting data as outlined in any GDPR checklist. Under GDPR, information should not be held for longer than necessary. And remember, the more data you have, the more damaging a leak could be.  

Conduct Regular Audits 

Are you protecting data effectively? Are your data governance procedures efficient? The answer to these questions might be yes now, but the answer could be different in six months. New business procedures could alter the way you handle data. Similarly, new or modified legislation might alter the scope of governance.   

The only way to ensure your governance is by conducting regular audits. Assess every aspect of your data governance, from roles and responsibilities to security practices. Leave no stone unturned.  

The more thorough your audits, the less likely you’ll run into privacy issues with data. You can spot potential issues early and correct them.

Consider Third-Party Vendors 

Your organization might work with third-party vendors to receive certain services. When doing so, consider how these vendors use and process data. If a company experiences a data leak with details of your customers, you may be held responsible. 

That’s why, before working with any vendor, it’s important to do your research beforehand. Does a third party have procedures in place for protecting data? By working with vendors with the same privacy outlook as your organization, you minimize the risk of errors arising.  

Carry Out Risk Assessments 

Alongside audits, risk assessments are a useful way of minimizing the risk of data privacy-related issues. Proper risk assessments should be extremely thorough. Take a birds-eye view of your data governance. 

Make a list of all the potential issues that you could encounter, regardless of how small the risk. Assign a score to each identified risk (generally out of five). Typically risks are categorized as low, medium, or high. 

For each risk that you identify, consider solutions for mitigation. For example, you might find that more stringent access control can help prevent data misuse. 

Next, plan strategies for responding when an issue does occur. In the case of a data leak, for instance, who is in charge of notifying the public? Who will be tasked with containing the breach? Ultimately, The more preparation you do, the better placed you’ll be to respond to an issue.

Review Your Use of Metadata 

Metadata is descriptive information assigned to individual datasets. When managing large amounts of data, finding the information you need can be difficult. Thanks to metadata, you can quickly search and instantly find what you’re looking for. 

Unfortunately, many organizations handle metadata poorly. When they come to search, they might miss out on certain data sets. This can make auditing much more difficult, and you could miss privacy issues.  

To avoid these problems, try to bear the following best practices in mind when creating metadata. 

  • Use a consistent naming structure for all meta tags. 
  • Write useful descriptions that provide context to searchers. 
  • Store metadata in a centralized location such as a directory.  
  • Review regularly to ensure that metadata is relevant and up-to-date. 

Reconsider Your Data Governance Strategy 

The topic of data privacy isn’t going away anytime soon. As people become more concerned about how their data is used, expect more focus on your business’s data collection activities.  

In the future, we may see data privacy become a key factor for users deciding which businesses to associate with.

Data governance and privacy go hand in hand. Make sure that your governance is up to scratch by sticking to our best practices. Build your policies with each of the above factors in mind. And remember, there’s no harm in asking for a little help. Dataversity offers comprehensive training from leaders in data management.