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What Is A Data Protection Officer And Why Does Your Business Need One?

What Is A Data Protection Officer And Why Does Your Business Need One?

The new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that came into effect in May 2018 have been a huge talking point in recent years. In fact, you’d pretty much have had to been living under a rock not to have heard of GDPR by this point. Especially if you’re a business owner. 

In the run-up to these new regulations, businesses across the globe had to ready themselves by updating their security strategies and ensuring they were compliant with the new laws. A part of this meant deciding whether or not to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO). 

A DPO can be a beneficial tool for ensuring your business is completely GDPR compliant – something which is important if you don’t want to risk receiving a large fine. But if you’re still not sure whether you need to appoint a DPO in your business, or in fact what it is that they even do, we’re here to help. 

In this guide, we’ll take a look at the role a Data Protection Officer plays in your security and data protection strategy and why your business could benefit from appointing one. 

What is a Data Protection Officer? 

First, let’s start by looking at what they do. A DPO is an expert individual and dedicated risk owner who takes responsibility for risk assessment and data protection best practices in your business. They are there to assess data security and help you to implement a strategy that keeps your company GDPR compliant and your customer’s data safe. They are also responsible for staff training and ensuring every employee knows their obligations under GDPR. 

What’s more, a DPO is there at every stage of your data protection strategy, from assessing the risks to reporting any issues. Below is a full breakdown of what you can expect should you choose to appoint someone to this role:

  • They will conduct comprehensive risk assessments 
  • They will run data protection audits
  • They help to develop risk management solutions 
  • They work to implement security frameworks 
  • They run data protection awareness campaigns 
  • They support the business if there is a data breach 
  • They are the point of contact for relevant authorities should there be a breach

In this next section, we’ll look at five reasons why your business could benefit from hiring a Data Protection Officer. 

1. To protect your business against potential data breaches

First and foremost, one of the biggest reasons to appoint a DPO or hire a DPO service is to reduce the risk of a security breach. They will be able to assess your existing systems and flag any potential issues. This, in turn, helps you to put more effective security systems in place, reducing the likelihood of your business being hacked or becoming the victim of a cybercrime. 

2. To stop you facing a costly fine 

If reducing the risk of a security breach isn’t incentive enough, perhaps some of the following figures will sell you on appointing a DPO. In July 2019, British Airways were fined an eye-watering £183.39 million after a data breach exposed the personal information of around 500,000 customers. 

Not only this, in the same year Marriott International was fined over £99,000,000 for a breach reported in 2018. These are just two examples of the staggering fines businesses are facing as a result of data breaches. That’s not to say your business will face such huge penalties, but no fine is a good one. If having a DPO can reduce the risk of a breach even by a small amount it is a worthy investment. 

3. Because the law says you have to 

General Data Protection Regulation states that some organisations are legally obligated to have a DPO. If this is the case, then your business needs to fill the position quickly in order to stay GDPR compliant. If you’re not sure whether you legally need to appoint a DPO or not, don’t panic! The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has put together a very useful form that you can fill out to help you decide.

For the most part, public authorities and bodies must have a DPO, as well as organisations that collect data on a large scale. This isn’t to say that small businesses are exempt, so it’s always worth checking whether you legally need a DPO, otherwise you risk getting in trouble with the ICO. 

4. To help with staff training 

You may not be aware of this, but one of the biggest risks to your security is your team. Not intentionally of course, but human error is one of the biggest problems that businesses face when it comes to data protection. However, if your employees are educated about GDPR and data protection best practices, they’ll be more aware of their actions and less likely to do anything that could allow a cybercriminal to access your systems. 

Part of what a Data Protection Officer does is making every employee aware of their role in data protection, even if this is as simple as teaching them not to connect to unsecured networks or to add two-factor authentication to their devices. All these simple steps go a long way to protecting your business. As such, hiring a DPO means that they can educate you and your team, ensuring everyone is on the same page and is able to spot any suspicious activity that could link to a data breach. 

5. To boost your reputation 

Finally, it might not seem like it, but appointing a DPO can do wonders for your reputation as a business. Since the implementation of GDPR, more and more individuals have become aware of their rights to access and delete their data. What’s more, many are becoming increasingly concerned with the safety of their data. And this is not surprising given the huge amount of personal information we share with companies nowadays. 

Having a DPO not only reduces your risk of a breach, but it shows that you’re taking responsibility for your data protection efforts. This looks good to customers and clients, proving that you care about the safety of their information. As such, it can really help to boost your reputation.  

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