What to Look for When Appointing a Data Protection Officer (DPO)

What to Look for When Appointing a Data Protection Officer (DPO)

Earlier this year, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law took effect and changed how online businesses operate forever.

Giving European Union (EU) citizens more control over how their personal data is used, and requiring online businesses to comply with new data privacy provisions, GDPR rocked the cybersecurity landscape.

And the truth is, everyone is on the hook for being GDPR compliant, whether your online business is in the EU or not.

That’s because if your website has visitors from the EU, this new law applies to you.

The GDPR law seeks to establish added layers of protection to site visitors, allow people access to all of their stored data, and govern how data is shared.

But what it also requires is that every business appoints a Data Protection Officer (DPO).

Today we’re going to look at what a DPO is and what to look for when appointing one for your online business.

After all, if you don’t comply with GDPR and hire a competent DPO, you run the risk of having to pay hefty fines and losing your business altogether.

What is a Data Protection Officer (DPO)?

According to the EU GDPR portal, a data protection officer is someone that is:

”…appointed on the basis of professional qualities and, in particular, expert knowledge on data protection law and practices.

That said, the DPO you hire for your business will have direct control over your data privacy program and GDPR compliance.

More specifically, your DPO will perform duties such as:

  • Informing and advising those in your business about their obligations under GDPR and other data protection laws
  • Monitoring GDPR compliance
  • Carrying out internal data protection policies and procedures
  • Cooperating with higher authorities should any discrepancies arise

Keep in mind that even if you don’t have to hire a specific DPO for your online business because your business falls under some exemption, you will still need to comply with GDPR provisions.

That means any time you collect information from site visitors, whether it’s to process an online order, allow a subscription to your newsletter, or ask for their name on a form, you’ll have to comply.

So, let’s discuss what to look for when appointing a DPO for your online business, so you avoid any problems with GDPR noncompliance.

Knowledge and Experience with General Cyber Security

The person you appoint to oversee your business’ GDPR compliance should have working knowledge and experience in general cybersecurity matters.

Cyber threats are something that all websites run into.

And while website speed is one of the top ranking factors in search results, it’s good to know site security is an SEO ranking signal too.

Having someone on hand that can not only handle data protection policies as they relate to GDPR but also internal or external threats to your business is essential.

This is especially true because your DPO is supposed to be managing and advising you and your team on matters of site security, data protection, and GDPR compliance.

In fact, your DPO should be your in-house GDPR and cybersecurity expert.

You might consider looking into hiring a professional cybersecurity service that provides managed SIEM services.

These professional security companies are known for their expertise in GDPR compliance, among other things as well.

For instance, the professional you hire should have first-hand experience in IS audits, IT programming and infrastructure, penetration testing, threat blocking, and more.

Finding security gaps within your organization, and keeping malicious threats and traffic away from your site will help secure your site visitors’ data, whether they are from the EU or not.

And this is just good practice.

Leadership and Independence

Your data protection officer will be in charge of making sure everyone within your business follows all the rules and regulations that you and GDPR outline.

They must be able to plan for training, request the right resources to stay in compliance, and lead you and your team when it comes to all matters of cybersecurity.

Adding to that, your DPO must have the ability to work independently. You have a lot going on every day when it comes to running and managing your business.

The last thing you need to do is hold the hand of your DPO as they wade through GDPR compliance.

Appointing a DPO is meant to take the burden off you.

They are expected to have knowledge and experience you don’t and are entrusted to handle cybersecurity and data protection on their own.

Good Communication

As the leader of your business’ cybersecurity and GDPR matters, your DPO must be able to communicate effectively.

When it comes to explaining to your IT team, employees, or even yourself what is going on, your DPO has to be able to get along well with everyone, no matter what level they’re at.

Plus, if your site visitors want information about how their data is being stored or want to know how to delete their data from your site’s database, your DPO must be able to address their concerns.

Cybersecurity comes with a lot of techy language and complex concepts that your customers may not understand.

The person you hire to handle customer concerns or complaints must be able to explain things in a way that is easily understood by everyone.

In addition, as the face of your business’ cybersecurity matters, you’ll want a DPO that can build long-lasting relationships with site visitors by instilling trust in them that you are in compliance and that their data is safe.

Knowledge about the Data on Hand

Your DPO has to know all the data that you’re collecting from site visitors, no matter what. In fact, data that is collected but not revealed to your DPO is data that is not safe.

Some organizations feel that collecting seemingly insignificant information from their site visitors to keep operations running and not dealing with it is enough to keep things safe.

But anyone that has worked in the online world for long understands that data that is not actively protected is vulnerable to outside attack.

And that’s how you get a major security breach on your hands.

Without knowing all of the data you collect from site visitors, from names and emails to complete financial information profiles to process orders, your DPO cannot do the following:

  • Control access privileges and assign user roles to data reports
  • Delete unnecessary data not needed by your organization
  • Understand how data is being used and stored
  • Quarantine sensitive data that should have added layers of protection
  • Perform security checks, scans, or fixes on data they don’t even know exists

Lastly, your DPO cannot ensure your company is 100% GDPR complaint without being informed about all the information you collect from site visitors.

Final Thoughts

Complying with GDPR is a necessity if you run an online business and collect any type of information from site visitors.

After all, it’s the law. And the amount of money you’ll be fined if you’re found to be breaking that law is enough to take your whole business down with you – so it’s not worth it to not hire a DPO.

Just make sure you appoint someone that is highly qualified in cybersecurity matters, has experience with GDPR and other data protection policies and can keep your team on board.

Trust us, this hassle of finding some to take over GDPR compliance for you is worth it.

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