GDPR: More Than Data Management, It’s About Governance

Neil Patrick

As you know, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), or Regulation (EU) 2016/679, is the revision to the European Union (EU) data protection law that becomes enforceable on May, 25 2018. Lately, I’ve been noticing that several software solutions and presentations focus on the data management aspects of GDPR—the “consent, deleting, blocking, retention” spectrum of GDPR compliance. Of course, this is necessary, and a good starting point.

However, the challenge posed to companies by GDPR is more about the organisational and procedural changes that will be necessary to demonstrate that a company is taking seriously the need to protect personal data as a business-as-usual regime through all echelons of stakeholders, operations, technology, and partnerships.

GDPR: It’s complicated

The figure below indicates why this is necessary. It shows the complexity of GDPR by linking interrelationships between the 99 articles in the regulation.

Almost half of the articles in GDPR are related to business procedures associated with policies, record-keeping, and accountabilities of roles and entities in order to demonstrate that a company’s approach to handling personal data is taken as seriously as the regulation requires.

Processing shall be lawful only if the data subject has given consent to processing of personal data (or one of the other five reasons) for a specific purpose, and each purpose must be distinct. Each data-processing activity must connect to a purpose that has a finite business scope, specific lawful reasons for conducting it, and a finite lifetime.

The fact that so many of the articles reference each other indicates the need for robust, enterprise-ready, holistic policy and process compliance software to address this plate of regulatory spaghetti. The governance is a challenge.

Why GDPR is a bit like wiretapping

Let me use wiretapping as a topical analogy to separate the technical from the  governance aspects.

Conducting modern wiretapping is a technical task requiring modern technology, leading-edge software, and smart and experienced people. This is the equivalent of the data-play conversation in GDPR: how to tag data, delete data, block access to it, archive it with legal retention periods, and so on.

However, the parallel activity—and many would argue a more important aspect—is the actual governance of wiretapping. This governance includes whether a wiretapping should take place, who approves it, what is the duration and scope, and what levels of intrusion are acceptable. This is the equivalent of the governance of GDPR, or the meat that the supervising authorities will want to pick over as evidence of compliance.

The controller’s responsibilities

GDPR Article 5 Chapter 2 requires that “the controller shall be responsible for, and be able to demonstrate compliance with, paragraph 1 (‘accountability’).”

I was talking to someone recently who picked out Article 30 as a troublesome area. To help me understand it, I created a mind-map diagram that spells out in detail the record-keeping requirements of processors and controllers.

Data processors now have direct obligations, like controllers. They must maintain a written record of the processing categories carried out on behalf of each controller, and notify each controller as they become aware of a data breach without undue delay.

Controllers must maintain a written record of processing activities.

So as in the wiretapping analogy, it’s not enough to be able to technically achieve the requirement. Tight governance must be maintained on how the task is managed.

Compliance must be done, and be seen as done

The governance complexity becomes an almost exponential equation:

  • Multiply these duties by number of purposes (with dates when they expire), business activities, and new initiatives
  • Factor in business units engaged in all or parts of these activities
  • Add software systems that deliver the content and analysis
  • And finally, consider categories of data subjects, categories of processing, post-processing retention requirements, subprocessors, and relevant contact people.

Companies need to document all of these and be able to show  evidence to the regulator. In other words, the governance expectations of data controllers and data processors is significant. And this is really why companies have been given two years to implement GDPR—because to demonstrate compliance with the regulation (and avoid the eye-watering fines), an organisation must show ongoing and systematic accountability, good governance, and sustainable procedures to the regulator.

Learn more

Follow this link for more information on control monitoring and risk management.

This article, GRC Tuesdays: GDPR Is about More Than Data Management, It’s about Governance, originally appeared on the SAP BusinessObjects Analytics blog and is republished by permission.

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Neil Patrick

About Neil Patrick

Dr. Neil Patrick is a Director of SAP Centre of Excellence for GRC & Security covering EMEA. He has over 12 years’ experience in Governance, Risk Management and Compliance (GRC) & Security fields. During this time he has been a managing consultant, run professional services delivery teams in the UK and USA, conducted customer business requirements sessions around the world, and sales and business development initiatives. Neil has presented core GRC and Security thought leadership sessions in strategic customer-facing engagements, conferences and briefing sessions.