As governments around the world introduce data privacy legislation, small to medium businesses (SMBs) are expected to keep up. Data protection is no longer simply a matter of good practice. It is a legal obligation to protect data, the most valuable new currency in the digital economy.
For SMB owners, a failure to meet the expectation of consumers to safeguard their data can be legally and financially devastating – not to mention damaging to their corporate reputation. Data is now recognised as a significant asset to businesses, and a breach could seriously affect its competitiveness.
The legislation is now capturing a greater range of IT practices in business – and since businesses increasingly operate across borders, it is important to develop an understanding of the key laws. The EU’s GDPR, Australia’s NDB scheme and US laws all lay out various compliance requirements and prioritise the protection of consumer data and the responsibility to notify authorities of breaches. Here are some tips to help ensure your data remains private and protected.
1. Compliance is key
SMB owners are no strangers to compliance. To adhere to evolving data legislation, owners need to recognise and understand their data reporting requirements. Starting from the beginning to identify what it is needed to be compliant now will more effectively prepare businesses for the evolving digital future. It may be time-consuming, but businesses need to manage their IT systems effectively to identify any areas that could be compromised.
2. Data is an asset, not an overhead
Businesses are encouraged to change their perception of data. Understanding data as an asset that directly affects strategic decisions is critical to any 21st century business’s growth. Developing a data strategy will enable businesses to evolve, rather than be stunted by poor data management – especially as they grow.
3. Develop a data strategy
Developing a data strategy helps businesses clarify when, where and how data is being processed, managed, stored and erased. After understanding the requirements for your business, develop a data strategy that manages personal data and prioritises its security. Importantly, ensure your staff are aware of their responsibilities concerning data protection.
A sound data strategy will place SMBs in the best position to respond to data breaches and ensure they meet legal obligations. The more efficiently a breach is dealt with, the less harm to the consumer, the less costs incurred and, consequently, the less damage to the reputation of the business.
4. Prioritise security
By now, the message is clear that businesses should prioritise security in their data strategy. Data theft is a crime, but legislation expects a business to have implemented data protection measures. Run an IT audit. Be aware of what hardware and software is in use, ensure security software – like encryption, antivirus apps and virtual private network solutions – are current and set notifications for renewals.
5. Get the necessary support
Organising the current data load while watching the horizon for future privacy requirements can seem daunting. Don’t have the expertise? A third-party provider can assess and manage personally identifiable information (PII) you hold and advise on future data management, control and processing. Consider legal advice or an IT company committed to data security.
Prioritising data privacy is integral to maintaining consumer trust. A proactive approach will give SMBs the ability to adapt and evolve to ever-changing legislation in the modern technological world.