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Is My Website GDPR Compliant?

Jacob Fox
Apr 9, 2021

As the economy continues to digitize, more and more data transfers across the internet. With this growth, cybercriminals increasingly target user's personal data such as credit card information, passwords, or even simply email addresses.

This led governments to call for data protection standards to help protect personal data from malicious actors. With that in mind, the General Data Protection Regulations, commonly known as GDPR provides a regulatory framework outlining when and how online businesses need to secure their user’s data for all European citizens.

The GDPR, passed by the European Union, went into effect in May 2018. The law regulates how businesses and organizations process user data. Under the legislation, organizations with a website have to disclose information on how they collect and use customer data of European citizens.

With this directive in place, collecting even the smallest piece of digital information requires user consent. Failure to be compliant could result in a fine of 20 million Euros or 4% of your annual turnover, whichever is the highest.

This article discusses GDPR, compliance requirements, and how to make your website compliant. Website owners should learn more about this important compliance framework related to EU citizens.

What is GDPR Compliance?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a European Union (EU) regulatory requirement aims to protect users' data and privacy. It established the regulations and guidelines on how organizations manage user’s data, giving users more control over the increasingly valuable data about their online activity.

While the GDPR is not a U.S regulation, it extends to nearly all websites since these regulations apply to any website with visitors from the EU. In essence, this standard serves a similar purpose to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which intends to protect California residents' digital privacy.

Both regulations require websites to inform users how they collect online data. The main goal behind both of these regulations is to protect user’s data and privacy against businesses collecting valuable user data without disclosing the collection processes.

Since websites collect and use data in different ways, this regulatory framework provides a standard directive on data collection. GDPR requires businesses to ask for explicit consent to collect and process user’s personal information and provide users with an option to opt-out of the data collection process.

To be GDPR compliant, businesses must disclose their data collection processes with their users and get consent from their website visitors to do so. With this in mind, GDPR website compliance is essential and helps safeguard the user’s data.

GDPR Compliance Requirements

The GDPR outlines the responsibilities of organizations to protect and maintain the privacy of personal data. While understanding these GDPR compliance requirements can be difficult, they are critical if you operate a website.

Lawful, Fair, and Transparent Data Processing

Companies that process personal data should do so in a transparent, fair, and lawful manner. Your organization should only process data for legitimate purposes and properly disclose this to users. Also, the organization must inform all users about the data processing activities and only collect data from users who have opted in.

Personal Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA)

Whenever an organization introduces a change in personal data processing, it should carry out an impact assessment. This assessment, called a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA), estimates the impact of the changes to the data collection and usage process. After conducting the DPIA, organizations should keep records of the outcomes and any changes made. However, organizations do not have a legal mandate to publish the DPIA as it could contain sensitive information concerning security risks.

Data Loss Prevention

This provision states that anyone responsible for personal data processing is liable in case of a security breach. In the event that your organization has entrusted the processing of data to a third-party processor, all parties are responsible for data breaches. Therefore, all processors must comply with the GDPR as well. Ideally, compliance will be implemented for all organizations collecting data and any businesses processing data downstream.

Policy Management

There should be clear understanding and communication for all data privacy policies within the organization. The organization should maintain proper training to ensure every data handler fully understands the policies. Data management and privacy policies should be disclosed to users with clear and concise writing. Any updates to existing policies should be documented on the website and communicated to users.

Incident Response Plan

Businesses should have a plan outlining incident response preparation, containment, and recovery measures in case a data breach occurs. In the event of a data breach, the GDPR states that the organization should inform the Data Protection Authority within 72 hours and communicate to the affected data users without delay.

User’s Data Requests

Within the GDPR framework, users have rights over data collected from them. GDPR grants users with rights regarding their data, enabling them to give or withdraw consent at will. These rights include:

  • Right of access
  • Right of information
  • Right to erasure
  • Right to restrict processing
  • Right of rectification
  • Right to data portability
  • Right in relation to automation
  • Right to object

Organizations have to inform users about the collection and processing of their data. Users can request access to any data collected from them, and in case of inaccurate data, they have the right to request rectification.

Encryption and Anonymization

Organizations should encrypt and anonymize any data related to personal information. The data should be stripped of any identifying factors and properly stored with the necessary encrption.

Appointment of a Data Protection Officer (DPO)

GDPR requires larger companies (firms that employ more than 250 people) that process data to hire an independent data protection officer. The DPO’s job revolves around assessing regulatory compliance. GDPR requires DPOs to be data protection experts who operate independently.

How Can I Make My Website GDPR Compliant?

The main objectives of GDPR are simple to maintain personal data protection. With that in mind, here are various ways to make your website GDPR compliant.

Update Privacy Policy

The privacy policy has long been an essential feature of a website. To be GDPR compliant, websites need to update their privacy policy to include essential information about how your website collects and uses customer data. The policy should provide complete disclosure of personal data and how businesses intend to use it. Besides updating the privacy policy, ensure users can readily locate this information by keeping it in your website footer.

Users Accept a Cookie Policy

To be GDPR compliant, businesses must seek explicit consent from users to track their online behavior via cookies. To do so, websites should include a pop-up on the user’s first visit to accept or decline consent on cookie usage. Furthermore, the pop-up should include a link direct to the privacy, cookies, and other relevant policy documents for users to easily review.

Secure Data Storage

GDPR security compliance requires organizations to secure all customer data they collect. Businesses should encrypt the collected data with regards to its sensitivity. Encryption makes data unreadable unless it’s unencrypted, mitigating the risks associated with breaches.

Comply with Data Requests

Businesses should provide users with an easy way to request and view the information they collect from them. To be GDPR compliant, businesses should provide an explicit process to their users to request a copy of their saved data and a process to provide it once requested. Providing an easy-to-review data request process ensures businesses comply with GDPR regulations.

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing can be another core component of GDPR compliance for many businesses. The requirements state that organizations must be able to secure systems related to the core infrastructure. Therefore, businesses can fulfill this requirement by completing a penetration test or a vulnerability assessment.

Furthermore, if a personal data breach does occur, then businesses should readily consider completing a penetration test. This will ensure the breach can be properly reported to authorities and users with insights into precisely what data was jeopardized.

Cobalt’s Approach to GDPR Website Compliance

To safeguard your customer’s data, businesses are required to secure user data in an encrypted environment. Data security forms a critical component of the entire organization’s security, and it's essential all data systems are secure. At Cobalt, we perform penetration testing to detect any threats or vulnerabilities related to a business’s user data. The Cobalt penetration testing as a service (PtaaS) platform provides the necessary review of your technology stack to ensure your applications and networks are secure.

Get in touch with us today to enhance your personal data protection!