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General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance in Software

General Data Protection Regulation is a set of legally binding compliance rules and guidelines used in the European Union countries for user data privacy. The compliance was implemented in 2018 and since then a lot of companies, organizations and others have been using the GDPR code in the EU region.

Data privacy or GDPR can leave companies with lawsuits and fines can go upwards of 20 million pounds. So, any company, business, bank or institution operating in EU states needs to be GDPR compliant.

Historically, the EU states have had privacy policies since the early 90s’. Once the technology started advancing and data breaches became inevitable, the EU decided to strengthen user data privacy compliance laws.

It took the EU years to build what is known as General Data Protection Regulations. The compliance guides businesses on the minutest of details on how and what needs to be taken care off when conducting any business that involves user consent.

Liability for GDPR Compliance

Many global businesses aligned their practices to be GDPR compliant as soon as the implementation was announced. They redid their consent forms and permissions for all consumers worldwide.

As GDPR is only specific for EU member states, businesses operating outside the EU and not dealing with this regions states can be exempted from following the framework. Although for business with international dealings, the company should follow the framework in case they ever expand to the EU member states.

Another criteria is if the business website has a comment option under their posts. This uses and stores the users’ data which can be a violation of GDPR framework if the user belongs to the EU.

Steps for GDPR Compliancy

There are some steps the business must take to become compliant with the data privacy framework.

Requirement of stored data

The business needs to decide if they need the data that they store form users. Sometimes, the user data is unnecessarily being stored just because it can be. It has no real value for the company and they might just need some parts of the data that they ask the user for.

In this case, the enterprise can let go of the useless data and just collect the information that they need. They can redo their consent form and inform their customers that they are storing specific data.

Data Encryption

Encryption has become a requirement in the technologically advanced world. Hackers and viruses have evolved which put the user data at risk.

Data encryption requires decryption keys which makes it difficult for hackers to understand and use the scrambled data. Now, there are end to end encryption requirements against any data breaches.

It significantly reduces the chances of the stolen data to be used in some way by the attacker. Cybersecurity experts still claim that even then, security breaches are possible so encryption and security are the safest option for protecting users.

On the other hand, in case of data leaks the company could face a privacy lawsuit and pay a hefty settlement to the affected.

Use of the HTTPS

Most often, online marketplaces or any online service providers have a ‘contact us’ form. Users put in their data for communication purposes and if this is not encrypted then hackers can misuse the data after stealing.

Another guideline by the GDPR is that the temporary data storage time has to be informed to the user too. So, the user needs to be told that the information filled in the form will be stored for how long.

The newer HTTPS is a newer and securer version of the old HTTP. HTTPS is a communication mode that is encrypted to keep the connection from getting hacked. SSL/TLS cryptographic protocols are used for HTTPS security.

Consent Forms

The most important part of the GDPR would be the consent forms. The framework asks the business to make consent forms that have default as a no or black box. Usually, the boxes are pre-ticked or chosen which is unacceptable.

As stated in the GDPR framework:

A statement of clear affirmative action” or “a freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous user consent

Granular Opt-in

One of the advertisement models companies follow are online marketing emails and marketing calls. The GDPR tells the businesses to get consent for each type of marketing mode.

This means a consent form must explicitly ask if the consumer would like to be reached by email, telephone or by post.

Third Party Data Sharing

If the company has partnered with another business and there will be data sharing then the consumer needs to be told this and get consent for data sharing.

The consumer must be given the right to reject the data sharing and data storing in this scenario as well.

Separation between the forms

Separate the consent forms and terms and conditions clearly so that the user can differentiate between them easily. Also, make sure that the terms and conditions form is highly visible.

Consent Withdrawal

The GDPR gives the user the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ from any online platform. This includes being able to unsubscribe from a newsletter or promotional advertisements. A separate consent page must be included in the website where the user can toggle consent.

Cookie Policy

Cookies leave traces of user activity which can be combined with tools to identify the user and send users advertisements and content. These cookies are unacceptable in GDPR.

Cookies need to be slashed from use unless there is a legal obligation, don’t violate individual rights, needed for online contracts or the consent of users.

Security Questions

When a user signs up with any email carrier or a website that will deal with sensitive information, they ask security questions for authentication. In GDPR any question related to and identifies the users personal information such as mothers name etc is not allowed.

Alternative to this is using two-factor authentication method. These combine the mobile number with a password which is a great security feature against hackers.

IP Logs

In case the website uses IP addresses and stores location data, then they need consent for this too. These need encryption and a time period till they are kept stored.

Payment Gateways

E-commerce websites use and stores the personal data which is needed to perform an online transaction. This storage is illegal according to the GDPR. Such data must be saved with consent and be deleted by a deadline set which is usually 60 days’ time.

BI Tracking

Online businesses need to improve their recommendations and analytics to carry this. Business intelligence tracking needs user consent as well. This stores their buying habits and user data. So, GDPR asks businesses to get BI tracking consent too.

Erase Data

Once a user has unsubscribed from an online platform, the business must erase their user data from servers.

Equivalent of GDPR Globally

The GDPR is a comprehensive set of rules and so far, there is no other user data privacy law in the world. The US and China are trying to adopt and formulate such laws for their countries too.

Since the UK exited the European Union, they are no longer covered under the GDPR compliancy. But, they used the same framework and came up with the UK-GDPR. They changed the wordings to be UK-centric otherwise everything is the same.

In the US, California adopted a privacy law that is just for the state. It outlines how the user data of Californian residents can be used by any business globally and was adopted in January 2020. Washington, Virginia and New York City are looking into such laws for their states as well.

China formulated and implemented the Personal Information Protection Law which can be considered the closest to the GDPR. This was implemented in China in November 2021. It is very comprehensive with 8 chapters and 74 articles.

Mashkraft for GDPR Compliance

Mashkraft is a software development company with clients in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa. We have extensive experience in developing GDPR compliant software for clients and helped businesses overhaul their software for compliancy. Please reach out, and our experts will help you find the right solution that fits your budget and needs. You can find out more details about our services and successes at www.mashkraft.com.