Managing data risk in the post-GDPR world | IT Partner

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Managing data risk in the post-GDPR world


In the middle of May 2019, Compliance and security virtual conference took place and, in case you missed it, we’ve prepared the recap of some sessions for you. One of the presentations was hosted by Silvia Kingsmill, a Partner in the Risk Consulting practice at KPMG Canada, and the National Data Protection and Privacy Leader (yes, you’re not mistaken, very same KPMG from Big Four accounting firms). This session was devoted to the overview of the regulatory landscape. She has spoken about data privacy, cybersecurity, data governance, digital transformation, and what’s more important offered advice on how to reach compliance and improve the security posture of an organization.

According to Silvia, data is #1 strategically important asset, it is the new oil of the digital economy. It enables us to give a better customer experience, it transforms the way we work, live, plays and interacts with one another via social media channels. It gives every organization the ability to drive insights into the customer experience to deliver better products and services and transform industries. However, all of this doesn’t come without risk. Data needs to be managed, used responsibly, ethically, and there need to be accountability measures in place. So, let’s discover some of the challenges and operational pitfalls, that KPMG observes with data risk management in the post-GDPR world.

Drivers of the market disruption

KPMG defines four drivers of change illicitly responsible for market disruption. The first of which is massive cyber and privacy breaches, which are resulted in class action lawsuits, extensive fines, penalties, and regulatory scrutiny.

Regulatory landscape is the second driver of change. GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, for example, imposes extreme fines and penalties for non-compliance. It requires the organizations to think differently about privacy risk management and the robustness of their existing compliance program.

The third driver of change is emerging technology, that induces digital transformation, influenced by artificial intelligence, big data, and Internet of things. Organizations are becoming more privacy aware, and more sensitive to the impact that these emerging technologies have on customers. There is a big trend in the industry, that is going over and above regulation, where industry organizations are getting together to develop industry standards for certification purposes (like CIO Strategy Council, the International Organization for Standardization and others). It enables emerging technologies to be rolled out safely, in an ethical and trustworthy manner.

The fourth driver of change is the need for proof of compliance. It’s no longer enough to say we’re doing privacy, and we’re thinking about cybersecurity and risk management. Organizations are required to be accountable for their information handling practices, and they need to operationally track and demonstrate due diligence. So, there’s another trend in the market place for privacy certification schemes, and global certifications against ISO standards, like privacy by design, for example. KPMG expert expects that in 2 or 3 years, we’ll see the evolution of ISO standard for privacy by design for consumer business services.

GDPR and its global impact

The buzz words that we hear all the time are accountability, responsibility, transparency, ethics, and trust. Organizations are in the business of trust, and the EU’s GDPR raises the bar of the data protection standard. GDPR became the game changer in terms of citizens’ rights, as it standardized and harmonized the rules across EU states, and let citizens challenge the companies if they use their data without consent, transparency, and accountability. And it is also a game changer for the supply chain, as data processors and data controllers, collecting information at first instances, are equally responsible for data protection. To learn more about GDPR, please see here .

Governments around the world are enacting similar GDPR-like legislation.

In the absence of legislation, regulatory guidance, that mirrors the language of the GDPR, has been issued by the different data protection commissioners around the world. Silvia Kingsmill predicts global changes, that will line up to the expectations around data protection under the GDPR.

There is also a philosophical shift and organizational commitment to privacy, which is about proactive risk management and a movement away from the tick-the-box compliance exercise to the exercise that looks to remediate the highest risk when it comes to information and data management.

Privacy by design

Leading-edge companies and regulators are committing to privacy by design. It is the philosophy of embedding privacy and security into the system design and architecture of any emerging technology, into the day-to-day business practices, into the organizational culture, making sure that you proactively manage the risk up front, and not retrofit your systems. In fact, KPMG has developed privacy by design risk assessment framework, that falls under “comply once, attest to many” (standards) approach.

If you also want to learn more about your compliance posture against different regulations, check out the tool, called Compliance manager .

Operational challenges

Companies and organizations are left on their own while implementing some of the net new standards and regulations, that we are seeing in the world of AI, privacy, cybersecurity and risk management. By KPMG observations, it’s most often the simple things that get companies into trouble with privacy violations, and the reason for most of them is a disconnection between people, processes, governance, and technology. Some of the findings, that KPMG has in their privacy risk assessment reports, are around the over-collection of data, and, as a result, the over-retention of it, which increases your privacy risk exposures, and your attack surface.

Another way that companies get into trouble is the lack of transparency in the legal language and poorly written privacy policies. According to the regulations, it is expected, that companies have accurate and user-friendly privacy policies, enabling the customer to understand, what information is collected, for what purpose, how it’s going to be protected, and if it’s ever going to be shared with third parties, the consent will be asked. Monetization of data is also prohibited if it’s not done responsibly and ethically. Leveraging insights from the data, that an organization has about its customer, is completely acceptable, if it relies on consent, done in conjunction with transparent policies and procedures, and enables an individual to withdraw consent and to challenge the privacy practices of an organization.

The biggest way that companies get into trouble is by ignoring regulatory expectations. Regulatory guidance is more instructive and more important to take note of, as it is what a regulator will look for if you are involved in a privacy investigation or breach complaint.

Digital gets personal

As organizations are in the business of trust, the competitive differentiator will be the capability of organizations to respect consumer privacy and show the transparency around information handling. It’s all about managing expectations, whether it be from a customer, from a government or legislator, and more importantly from the regulators.

KPMG is seeing privacy programs evolving, where cybersecurity is part of a privacy equation. Organizations are elaborating their privacy and security programs enterprise-wide to embed privacy into corporate processes and technology decisions, such as in strategic business planning, project management lifecycle, and enterprise risk reporting.

There’s greater awareness around privacy breaches, and, as a result, organizations have become more sensitive to it. They are making pledges to their customers through certification mechanisms to ensure, that they continue to earn and keep their customers’ trust and manage their expectations in line with privacy and security best practices.

KPMG has conducted several surveys globally interrogating 1700 CEOs. The results proved, that digital is getting personal. It means that protecting customers’ data is no longer just a part of corporate social responsibility, it’s about doing the right thing. There’s a mind shift, which implies seeing data, privacy, security, and risk management as opportunities for the organization to build privacy and security principals into their day-to-day business operations and transformation. For more numbers, see the pic below.

Some industry trends

It’s a myth to say, that privacy is only about B2C environment. B2B organizations are equally interested in privacy rules because they deal with B2C-focused companies, that want sufficient guarantees around the privacy protections, that are embedded across the supply chain. Contracts are only as good, like paper, they are written on, if the vendors don’t live up to the commitments, they make in their privacy policies and in the contracts between the data giver and the data taker.

A shift to privacy-by-design thinking around the release of products and services shows that companies are more concerned with the question of what should we be doing with our data to continue innovating and to preserve the trust of our customers, which must be balanced with the regulatory framework around the responsible use of data.

Data mapping has been a cyber-security practice for many years, and now it’s required under the GDPR as law. It means that you need to understand, where your data assets live in order to protect them. More mature organizations are trending to automation (instead of Excel sheets) for data mapping.

Under the GDPR a data protection officer role must be designated under certain circumstances, but more and more companies are doing so as a best practice. These employees are required to develop, monitor and sustain the privacy program.

Compliance is a teamwork

Data protection and privacy are the responsibility of not only a compliance officer but a legal, business/data analytics and technology, and infosec teams alongside with internal audit team.

Compliance is not a destination, it’s a journey. On this way you may go through the following stages:

It’s important to note that many organizations irrespective of sector or industry are still trying to figure out their data process inventory and identify, where their most critical data assets live (what server, what application) in order to be able to safeguard the information and understand, what third parties or others have access to the information, and ensure there is no inappropriate data access, resulting in risk exposures.

By the way, if your company is also concerned with the inventory and classification of data assets and you want to follow the trend of automating these processes, you can count on IT Partner’s GDPR data discovery Service .

All the different components of the compliance journey can be used together as a good due diligence defense, should a regulator come knocking on your door in an event of privacy complaint or privacy cyber breach investigation. In fact, it can also be used to lessen the severity of fine, or a penalty.


A holistic risk-management program, when it comes to privacy and security, has several building blocks to it. It starts with the sound business strategy, that incorporates data protection, privacy, and cybersecurity. It also involves privacy by design thinking and proactive risk-management practices (that include privacy policies and procedures, and a sustainable target operating model (TOM). Don’t forget about training and awareness, because people are often the weakest link. The good program requires good metrics, risk reporting and evaluation of the entire program end-to-end, as well as stress testing and incident response policies and procedures.

Measuring your risk posture presumes to understand which practices are effective and which are useless. To find your effective practices, KPMG bits of advice to set the position of fully dedicated chief privacy officer (CPO), or data protection officer (DPO), that has the full backing of the Board, and TOM from the top.

Keeping up to privacy-by-design thinking requires training of personnel and stress testing of policies and procedures. Don’t neglect stress testing, it is critical, as monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the entire program is one of the success factors.

Trustworthy companies are required to have a well-written and fully documented defensible position in the event of a regulatory challenge. Nothing is full-proof and safe, as hackers are always ten steps ahead. Turning compliance into a competitive advantage and market differentiator means being proactive about your risks and embed privacy and security up front.