Cutting through the jargon: What is a DPO?
While every individual in your organisation should, at the very least, be aware of the implications of GDPR, it’s probably naive to expect that your whole team has a clear understanding of the risks that come with every step of data processing you take. That’s where a DPO, or Data Protection Officer, comes in.
A DPO is an individual designated to control and check up on the data systems and procedures within your organisation. A DPO is mandatory if you are a public authority, or you process sensitive data on a large scale.
It’s never a bad thing to make sure you have a full understanding of what GDPR means for your business – and this is where a DPO has the skills to clarify how GDPR specifically applies to your circumstances.
As mentioned earlier, public authorities who regularly process whole batches of personal information, appointing a DPO is an absolute must – but for smaller businesses, a DPO can act as a safeguard and potential GDPR mishaps.
Perhaps most importantly, a DPO will demonstrate your business’s compliance with GDPR, meaning that if you do suffer a data breach, you can prove that you were taking steps to protect any personal information in your possession. The DPO acts as a point of contact both within your organisation, and between your organisation and the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Say you’re unsure about the access requirements for a particular set of data, or you want to check your privacy settings are as watertight as possible – the DPO will be able to advise on the correct processes so that you can be absolutely sure that you’re remaining compliant.
This also means that the DPO can inform the ICO if any high risk processing is identified. By having a clear point of contact through your DPO, your business can avoid letting any dangerous data processing slip through the net, meaning you can potentially avoid some very damaging fines.
Finally, your DPO is also responsible for leading any training sessions to raise awareness of GDPR regulations within your organisation. With the constantly changing nature of cyber threats and malicious software threatening to steal your data, it can be difficult to stay ahead of cyber attacks.
A DPO will have the expert knowledge needed to train your team to spot these threats before they can threaten your GDPR compliance. In this way, appointing a DPO is a measure you can take to future-proof your business, as well as making sure your data is protected in the present.
So you know you need a DPO: What next?
Regardless of your business size, it’s important to make sure you leave no stone unturned when it comes to GDPR. As has been widely reported, significant fines could be put into place if your business fails to meet data safety requirements.
Luckily, the GDPR regulations aren’t too constricting when it comes to the kind of person that should take up the DPO role.
Article 37 states that ‘the DPO shall be designated on the basis of professional qualities and in particular, expert knowledge of data protection law and practices’.
This means that as long as they have a thorough understanding of the processes they are monitoring, and which of those processes aren’t following the rules, your DPO isn’t restricted to a certain kind of person.
The DPO should not be an existing staff member because they are not independent, impartial or free of consequences to action data protection issues due to their employee contract.
Whilst the public sector may have budget or shared resources available to secure the services of a DPO, many small businesses simply don’t have the money within their organisation to deliver full scale data security, which puts them at risk of missing high-risk data processing.
In the case of a cyber-attack on your business, an external DPO will work to minimise the potential damage to both you and your clients as far as is possible. From day to day data processing to knowing how to handle a data breach, having an external skilled resource of GDPR knowledge to lean on means that you can focus on your business growth, rather than GDPR compliance.
Whether you’re looking for DPO as a service, or need support in managing your data processes in house, we can help you to make sure each and every part of your business is compliant. Contact us for information about how our “DPO as a Service” could be a cost effective and efficient way of minimising cost, fines and reputational damage.