GDPR For Dummies: An HR Perspective

Naomi Benjamin

Cookies (not the edible kind), privacy statements, privacy policies, opt-in, opt-out…chances are if you’re reading this online, you’ve already had to opt-into something today. Then there are the numerous unread emails from clogging your inbox. The culprit? GDPR.

So what’s it all about—and why, as an HR professional, should you care?

What is it?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, or EU Regulation 2016/679) came into effect on May 25, 2018, and has been described as a landmark moment in data protection. More than three years in the making, the legislation governs the management of personal data, creating consistent data protection rules across the 28 European Union (EU) member states. The regulation has replaced the Directive 95/46/EC, which has been the basis of European data protection law since its introduction in 1995. The GDPR explicitly defines what it means by the term “personal data:” Any data that identifies or can be used to identify an individual. It also updates the definition of personal data to include technology advances such as IP address, location, and biometric data, for example.

What has driven it?

As noted by EY, the demise of Safe Harbor in 2015 and an increased number of high-profile data breaches in the media have caused concern amongst regulators and consumers as to how personal data was managed, and these were drivers for the regulation.

Why is it so revolutionary?

The regulation introduces new rights for individuals to control and protect their personal data, including:

The right to be forgotten – the right to ask data controllers to erase all personal data without undue delay in certain circumstances.

The right to portability – where individuals have provided personal data to a service provider, they can require the provider to “port” the data to another provider, providing this is technically feasible.

The right to object to profiling – the right not to be subject to a decision based solely on automated processing.

It also introduces a mandatory breach notification, which requires organizations to notify supervisory authority of data breaches without undue delay or within 72 hours, unless the breach is unlikely to pose a risk to individuals. If there is a risk, these individuals must be informed. Perhaps most importantly, there is the cost of non-compliance, which can be extraordinarily high – with fines as much as 4% of a business’ global revenue, or €20,000,000, whichever is higher.

Who does it apply to?

While it is European legislation and applies directly to companies operating from an establishment within the EU member states, it also applies to any location where processing is conducted. Therefore, it impacts any company that is a data processor or data controller of personal data based in the EU, as well as global companies that process personal data about individuals in the EU.

Who enforces it?

Supervisory authorities (SAs): Each member state of the EU will appoint an SA who will work with other member state SAs; the European Data Protection Board will coordinate the SAs. They can conduct audits, review certifications, issue warnings, order a processor or controller to comply with GDPR, impose limitations and even bans on processing, and impose administrative fines.

Now that you have the low-down, the first step is knowing if GDPR is applicable to your organization. If it is, your legal counsel has no doubt already made you well aware of this. As suggested in an earlier GDPR blog, the different activities involved to enable compliance with the GDPR and manage data privacy and protection must be brought together in a coherent and integrated set around the “four pillars” (privacy governance, data management, data security, and consent management), with solutions that deliver the capabilities needed to support each of them and so establish strong governance with best-of-breed technology. 

In summary, GDPR is all about the protection of personal data. Because HR is all about personal data, your solution for storing personal data must be capable of supporting GDPR compliance as your first line of defense. EY also suggests that ‘Privacy by Design’ is a key consideration for GDPR readiness—that is, designing data protection into the development of business processes and new systems. Privacy by design and default is also critical to continued GDPR compliance.

For more insight into data security, see Establish Trust In The Digital Age.

Naomi Benjamin

About Naomi Benjamin

Naomi has over 20 years HR domain experience across multiple industries and countries. As a Human Resources Technology Advisor at SAP, Naomi works with both the I.T and HR functions of organisations across the Asia Pacific region to understand how the implementation of Technology can support HR practices and deliver tangible business outcomes and measurable business benefits. Based in Melbourne, Naomi’s focus also includes how Cloud solutions can deliver business value through integrations, extensibility, compliance and security.