Consumer trust and data protection

Data protection and consumer trust

April 19th, 2023 Posted in Compliance, Data Protection

In a fast-paced, technology-centric consumer environment, personal devices are used for numerous day-to-day interactions. All of these exchanges create a substantial data footprint. Within this footprint will be vast amounts of personal data and where there is personal information, there are risks that must be mitigated.

For example, if a company does not have adequate security measures in place this will make it more susceptible to a hack or if an organisation is not being transparent about the way it uses data it will run the risk of misleading its customers. To learn more about policies and advice on being transparent about the use of data, head of data protection at Evalian, Ray Orife, discusses UK GDPR accountability and transparency in a recent interview.

Understanding the data protection risks of AI

Perhaps, you are considering the use of ChatGPT to help you streamline your business processes. ChatGPT and the use of artificial Intelligence have drawn mixed responses of late, so it will be prudent to fully understand the risks of such technology before you start using it. Do this by completing data protection impact assessments (DPIAs) and seeking professional advice. ChatGPT itself, recently told the ICO, “Generative AI, like any other technology, has the potential to pose risks to data privacy if not used responsibly”. Read our latest article on the update to the Artificial Intelligence compliance regulation.

If such risks are not sufficiently mitigated, they will expose consumers to potential harm, organisations to regulatory enforcement and more importantly, irreparable reputational damage. This will damage consumer trust.

Trust is key in a consumer environment. It is what long-lasting relationships are built on. If this trust is broken, it may stay that way or take significant time and effort to rebuild. As a result, it is imperative that organisations treat data protection with the utmost importance and embed compliance into their strategies and the very fabric of their organisations.

No longer can safeguarding consumer data be seen as an afterthought or tag on; it needs to be a fundamental part of an organisation’s strategic outlook and aims.

Data protection by design

Under the UK GDPR, organisations must implement appropriate technical and organisational measures that reflect the data protection principles and safeguard individual rights. This is ‘data protection by design and by default’.

In practice, this means data protection should be embedded into your processing activities and business practices, from the design phase right through the lifecycle. For instance, if you are looking to embark on a marketing campaign for a new product (read our guide to email marketing & PECR here), you should consider the data protection implications from the outset as opposed to when you are nearing the launch of the product. This will allow you to mitigate risks in a timely manner and put any required controls in place from the beginning.

Historically in data protection law, this concept was previously known as ‘privacy by design’. Adopting a privacy by design approach was seen as best practice, however, it is now a legal requirement under the UK GDPR. Employing such an approach will help you evidence compliance with relevant data protection law, drive efficiencies across your business and avoid retrofitting costs to put things right.

You need more than data protection policies

It is not enough to have only policies and processes. Under the UK GDPR’s accountability principle, you must be able to evidence how you meet the GDPR’s requirements. This means organisations need to tangibly show that their policies and processes are actually effective and fit for purpose.

As such, you should have detailed documentation and processes in place, and in addition, mechanisms to consistently review how your employees are complying with them. This will ensure issues are identified swiftly and allow for appropriate remediation action to be taken.

It is important to review your approach from a wide perspective. Consider the areas which will be most affected. Each organisation is different but there are some obvious areas to start. For example, your Customer Services, Operations, HR, Marketing and IT teams will handle personal data and should have a strong understanding of how data flows through your business – start here.

This task is made easier by making a designated person or department responsible for overseeing your data protection compliance. You should assess whether appointing a DPO is legally required by your organisation or would help focus your compliance. If you need help to understand whether to hire a data protection officer in-house or to outsource your DPO, then you’ll find plenty of advice in our article: Should you outsource your Data Protection Officer (DPO)?

Data protection = consumer trust

There are significant advantages to be gained from having a considered and robust data protection programme in place. In an environment where consumers are more aware of their data protection rights, organisations must use these benefits to gain a competitive edge. We have seen with ChatGPT how quickly things can change, from being very positive to seemingly negative in a short space of time.

By identifying risks early, you can ensure your controls are adequate. In turn, this proactive approach to compliance will lead to effective risk mitigation and drive efficiencies across your business by streamlining your ways of working. Being able to evidence strong compliance will show consumers that you are an organisation that treats protecting their information seriously.

This will build and maintain trust with your customers and make you more attractive to prospective customers. The reputational and operational rewards will follow from having a robust data protection programme.

Assess your compliance with a gap analysis

If you have not already assessed your organisation’s compliance with the UK GDPR and Data Protection 2018, you should review the measures you have in place to make sure they remain fit for purpose and aligned to your regulatory obligations and strategy. You could do this by having an external DPO, such as Evalian, perform a GDPR audit to identify gaps in your framework and where you should improve on.

In addition, you should ensure through appropriate employee GDPR training that your workforce fully understands their information rights roles and responsibilities. This will enable these employees to carry out their day-to-day tasks in line with the law’s requirements.

Get help with data protection compliance

As a specialist data protection consultancy, Evalian is well-placed to help you feel confident moving forward. Whether you need support carrying out a gap analysis or some quick pointers on how you can meet your consumers’ needs in an ever-changing data protection landscape, then get in touch. We can steer you in the right direction or, if you need help, we can assist at every level.

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Written by Ray Orife

Ray specialises in data protection and information rights law. He is a qualified solicitor and worked in private practice and in-house in commercial law roles before focusing on data protection. Before joining Evalian™ he was in-house counsel and Data Protection Officer for a high street financial services organisation and their associated businesses. His qualifications include a First Class Honours Degree in Law, LPC (Distinction), Practitioner Certificate in Data Protection (PC.dp) and IAPP CIPP/E.