GDPR Compliance in the Cloud is Possible with Planning

It’s been four years since the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) passed. Companies doing any business with Europe have had to realign a lot of the way they capture, store, and handle data, including how they gather permissions for it in the first place. Cloud GDPR compliance is a growing concern now that more companies have moved operations there.

Understanding the core principles of data privacy can help companies build GDPR clients into their cloud operations. Here’s what everyone needs to know.

How GDPR relates to cloud operations

Cloud compliance means companies must take a risk-based approach to protecting all potentially sensitive data. There are seven different components of GDPR to address.

  • Lawfulness, fairness, and transparency: Companies must be clear and open about when they collect data and how they will use it (both now and in the future). 
  • Purpose limitation: Companies must use data only for its original intended purpose, no matter how long the data remains in the company’s possession.
  • Data minimization: Companies must only collect data necessary to fulfill its intended purpose and no more.
  • Accuracy: Data should remain as accurate as possible, and companies must ensure this happens to the best of their ability.
  • Storage limitation: Data can only remain in storage for as long as it has a justifiable purpose, i.e., the original intent.
  • Integrity and confidentiality: Companies must ensure no unauthorized party has access to this data, whether accidental exposure or malicious.
  • Accountability: All companies are ultimately responsible for their own compliance—including training employees and ensuring partner compliance.

GDPR compliance in the cloud is a particular pain point for many companies. They’re spending millions of dollars to remain compliant, but many continue to have trouble covering the required bases.

GDPR challenges will only become more pressing as cloud migrations continue

Companies grappling with these regulations in the cloud must contend with complexity. The global market for GDPR services is estimated at $2 billion per year as companies grapple with compliance. We don’t expect that growth won’t slow down.

The law itself is complex. It’s also only one in a list of competing privacy initiatives patchwork throughout the US and North America. It requires companies to manage compliance even through the work of third parties, meaning that a company would be on the hook for breaches caused by its cloud service provider. 

In addition, new regulations and changing rulings regarding the implementation of GDPR and what constitutes sensitive data continue to appear. Companies will need to devote significant time to the practice of updating and adjusting operations to comply.

Creating a security checklist can help companies keep tabs on cloud operations

Regular internal audits based on a series of benchmarks can help companies maintain compliance even as regulations continue to change. A checklist helps ensure that all points are covered. On the cloud service provider side, these are some of the list items to include.

  • Understand the technical safeguards of all partners: Do your service providers use the latest standards in encryption, and do keys rest with your company?
  • Identify key security and control features offered by a service provider beyond encryption: For example, does the provider practice “zero knowledge” password methods? Do they use multi-factor authentication and permission management governance?
  • Ensure transparency for data use: The data controller is still responsible for ensuring third-party transparency. How do they process and manage data? What other tools or services do they use?
  • Understand what guarantees are in place: What binding documents does the service provider have for ensuring GDPR compliance and the highest level of cloud security for all clients? Is there a clear, understandable privacy policy and terms of use document? How does the service provider enforce these terms?

In addition, companies should ensure that safeguards remain in place on their end for employee training and managing governance internally.

  • Understand the data lifecycle: Employees and data stakeholders should know where data comes from, where it’s stored, and how it’s used.
  • Educate employees on GDPR specifically: This includes any contractors with access to data.
  • Designate a knowledgeable person as the chief of GDPR: Whether it’s a data protection officer or something else, one stakeholder should ensure the organization remains in compliance. For some companies, the data protection officer is a requirement by the GDPR standards.
  • Conduct regular audits: The whole purpose of the checklist is to ensure that companies continually monitor and check for compliance and any changes to compliance regulations.

Managing data in the cloud includes constant vigilance

Spending on resources to ensure compliance even in the cloud will prove to be well worth the expense. Not only does GDPR help companies build trust with consumers but it can help provide guidance for better ways to handle and process data.

Remaining compliant will be an ongoing process with regular internal audits. Additionally, companies will need reassurance that third-party providers, such as those with cloud services, are also well within GDPR limitations. This will help ensure that the cloud doesn’t become a significant, ongoing security risk.

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