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The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

What is the GDPR?

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) superseded the UK Data Protection Act 1998 on 25 May 2018. Significant and wide-reaching in scope, the new law brings a 21st century approach to data protection. It expands the rights of individuals to control how their personal data is collected and processed, and places a range of new obligations on organisations to be more accountable for data protection.

The Data Protection Act 2018 enshrines the GDPR into UK law, and supplements the GDPR by filling in the sections of the Regulation that are left to individual member states to interpret and implement. As an act of UK law, the Data Protection Act’s requirements will continue to apply after Brexit.


Start your journey to GDPR compliance

For many organisations, achieving GDPR compliance will be a year-long journey – if not longer. You should prioritise tackling those areas where a lack of action leaves your organisation exposed. Where an infringement occurs, demonstrating you have made a start could help reduce potential penalties.

No matter what stage of your compliance journey you are at, IT Governance can help you avoid the risk of potential penalties. Speak to one of our experts today to find out how your organisation can become GDPR compliant.

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A summary of the EU GDPR

When the GDPR came into effect on 25 May 2018, it was the first major update to European data protection law for more than 20 years. The Regulation gives individuals (known as data subjects) much greater control over how organisations process their personal data. Find out more with our GDPR overview video.

The principle requirements

The GDPR applies to all EU organisations – whether commercial business, charity or public authority – that collect, store or process the personal data of EU residents, irrespective of nationality. Some of the key changes introduced by the Regulation are:

1. Accountability and governance

You must be able to demonstrate compliance with the GDPR:

  • The establishment of a governance structure with roles and responsibilities.
  • Keeping a detailed record of all data processing operations.
  • The documentation of data protection policies and procedures.
  • Data protection impact assessments (DPIAs) for high-risk processing operations. Find out more >>
  • Implementing appropriate measures to secure personal data.
  • Staff training and awareness.
  • Where necessary, appoint a data protection officer.

Discover how you can demonstrate GDPR compliance >>

2. Data protection by design and by default

There is a requirement to build effective data protection practices and safeguards from the very beginning of all processing:

  • Data protection must be considered at the design stage of any new process, system or technology.
  • A DPIA is an integral part of privacy by design

Find out more about DPIAs under the GDPR >>

3. The six data processing principles

Personal data must be:

  • Processed lawfully, fairly and transparently.
  • Collected only for specific legitimate purposes.
  • Adequate, relevant and limited to what is necessary.
  • Accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.
  • Stored only as long as is necessary.
  • Ensure appropriate security.

4. Lawful processing

You must identify and document the lawful basis for any processing of personal data. The lawful bases are:

  • Direct consent from the individual;
  • The necessity to perform a contract;
  • Protecting the vital interests of the individual;
  • The legal obligations of the organisation;
  • Necessity for the public interest; and
  • The legitimate interests of the organisation.

5. Valid consent

There are stricter rules for obtaining consent:

  • Consent must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.
  • A request for consent must be intelligible and in clear, plain language.
  • Silence, pre-ticked boxes and inactivity will no longer suffice as consent.
  • Consent can be withdrawn at any time.
  • Consent for online services from a child under 13 is only valid with parental authorisation.
  • Organisations must be able to evidence consent.

6. Privacy rights of individuals

Individuals’ rights are enhanced and extended in a number of important areas:

  • The right of access to personal data through subject access requests.
  • The right to correct inaccurate personal data.
  • The right in certain cases to have personal data erased.
  • The right to object.
  • The right to move personal data from one service provider to another (data portability).

7. Transparency and privacy notices

Organisations must be clear and transparent about how personal data is going to be processed, by whom and why.

  • Privacy notices must be provided in a concise, transparent and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language.

8. Data transfers outside the EU

The transfer of personal data outside the EU is only allowed:

  • Where the EU has designated a country as providing an adequate level of data protection;
  • Through model contracts or binding corporate rules; or
  • By complying with an approved certification mechanism, e.g. EU-US Privacy Shield.

9. Data security and breach reporting

Personal data needs to be secured against unauthorised processing and against accidental loss, destruction or damage.

  • Data breaches must be reported to the data protection authority within 72 hours of discovery.
  • Individuals impacted should be told where there exists a high risk to their rights and freedoms, e.g. identity theft, personal safety.

10. Data protection officer (DPO)

The appointment of a DPO is mandatory for:

  • Public authorities;
  • Organisations involved in high-risk processing; and
  • Organisations processing special categories of data.

A DPO has set tasks:

  • Inform and advise the organisation of its obligations.
  • Monitor compliance, including awareness raising, staff training and audits.
  • Cooperate with data protection authorities and act as a contact point.

Find out more about the DPO role under the GDPR >>


What is personal data? 

The GDPR applies to personal data. This is any information that can directly or indirectly identify a natural person and can be in any format. The Regulation places much stronger controls on the processing of special categories of personal data. The inclusion of genetic and biometric data is new.

Personal data

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email address
  • Photo
  • IP address
  • Location data
  • Online behaviour (cookies)
  • Profiling and analytics data

Special categories of personal data

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Political opinions
  • Trade union membership
  • Sexual orientation
  • Health information
  • Biometric data
  • Genetic data

Which organisations does the GDPR apply to?

The GDPR applies to all EU organisations – whether commercial business, charity or public authority – that collect, store or process the personal data of individuals residing in the EU, even if they’re not EU citizens. Organisations based outside the EU that offer goods or services to EU residents, monitor their behaviour or process their personal data will be subject to the GDPR.

Service providers (data processors) that process data on behalf of an organisation come under the remit of the GDPR and will have specific compliance obligations. An example might be a company that processes your payroll or a Cloud provider that offers data storage.

Find out how your organisation can start its journey to becoming GDPR-compliant today >>


How will Brexit impact the GDPR?

The GDPR came into force before Brexit was finalised. However, UK organisations handling EU residents’ personal data will still need to comply with the GDPR even after the UK leaves the EU. 

The new Data Protection Act is a UK law and will continue enforcing the GDPR’s requirements post-Brexit. The Act also includes a number of modifications to the GDPR in areas where variations are permitted, such as academic research, financial services and child protection. Learn more >>

Post-Brexit any cross-border data flows between the EU and the UK may no longer carry automatic adequate safeguards. Accordingly, the UK Government is seeking an ‘adequacy decision’ from the EU to continue to share personal data. If this is not forthcoming, other options include seeking a bilateral agreement similar to the EU-US Privacy Shield, or for organisations to implement standard contract clauses or binding corporate rules that would add complexity and cost to data transfers. International organisations should consider Brexit implications in their GDPR planning.


The benefits of the GDPR

There are great advantages to GDPR compliance. The new law promotes greater transparency and accountability and aims to increase public trust by giving individuals more control over their data. By getting data protection right, organisations will enhance their reputation, and build better, trusted relationships with existing and potential customers.

The business benefits of the GDPR include:

  • Build customer trust
  • Improve brand image and reputation
  • Improve data governance
  • Improve information security
  • Improve competitive advantage

Start your journey to becoming GDPR-compliant today >>


How IT Governance can help you get GDPR-ready

IT Governance, a leading global provider of IT governance, risk management and compliance solutions, is at the forefront of helping organisations globally address the challenges of GDPR compliance.

Browse our range of free resources and comprehensive solutions to help you meet your GDPR compliance objectives.

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Speak to a GDPR expert

If you’re looking for help with your GDPR project, get in touch with our experts who can advise you on which of our products and services are best suited to your needs.