May 25 marked the deadline for enterprises worldwide to comply with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The sweeping regulation from the European Union (EU) is intended to revolutionize the relationships of data holders or processors and the people associated with that data (also known as data subjects). The GDPR protects the personal data of data subjects from the EU, including citizens, visitors and noncitizen residents, regardless of where their data is being held or processed — and penalties for noncompliance can be substantial.

GDPR conformance is a challenge for many enterprises, even ones with no current EU-resident customers or employees. Companies around the world will be affected if they hire employees with EU citizenship (including dual citizenship) — or if they ever develop customer or business-partner relationships involving EU citizens or residents.

But what is one of the hardest parts of getting ready (and maintaining readiness) for the GDPR? Knowing where to start. The obligations the regulation imposes could spark changes in nearly every part of your enterprise — from customer outreach via social media and data protection to archiving transaction records.

GDPR: Why Data Protection Is Difficult

Data, including personal data, is hard to control because it’s dynamic, distributed and in demand. As data grows, changes and multiplies, keeping track of it becomes more difficult. Your business can’t stop to reexamine and classify data every time a customer record is updated. (Learn more about how to accelerate your GDPR efforts.)

In the age of big data analytics, cloud computing and mobile access, organizations can struggle to keep track of all their data sources. Data is increasingly accessible — and in increasingly complex combinations. Due to this, figuring out every place you hold the personal information of even a single EU data subject is an enormous challenge — and with hundreds or thousands of customers, a vastly bigger one.

Preparing a Five-Phase Action Plan

Finding where your enterprise holds personal data, however, is just one aspect of reaching compliance. Discovering security risks to data stores, designing business processes that minimize data exposure, operating with privacy as a central concern and employing data protection tactics, such as encryption or pseudonymization, all help.

But compliance needs to go even further.

Under the GDPR, you may need to be ready to comply with the regulation by meeting data subjects’ requests to transfer or erase information that identifies them, or by providing documentation of compliance to auditors.

You need to map out a plan to follow a five-phase approach to compliance — no matter where you are in your journey:

  1. Assess data holdings and vulnerabilities to know what data resources are affected.
  2. Design intelligent systems to help ensure compliance.
  3. Transform your business practices and operations.
  4. Operate with privacy at the forefront.
  5. Conform to legal requirements of the regulation.

For a regulation as complex as the GDPR, going at it alone can mean wasted time and uncertainty. Software tools, such as IBM Security Guardium Analyzer, can help you face these challenges with higher efficiency and accuracy, at a low cost and with minimal operational overhead — whether your data is on-premises or stored in the cloud.

Wherever you are on the road to GDPR readiness, there are steps you can take to help your enterprise find GDPR personal data, uncover risk and take action.

Explore More Content

Clients are responsible for ensuring their own compliance with various laws and regulations, including the European Union General Data Protection Regulation. Clients are solely responsible for obtaining advice of competent legal counsel as to the identification and interpretation of any relevant laws and regulations that may affect the clients’ business and any actions the clients may need to take to comply with such laws and regulations. The products, services, and other capabilities described herein are not suitable for all client situations and may have restricted availability. IBM does not provide legal, accounting or auditing advice or represent or warrant that its services or products will ensure that clients are in compliance with any law or regulation.

Learn more about IBM’s own GDPR readiness journey and our GDPR capabilities and offerings to support your compliance journey here.

More from Data Protection

Data Privacy: How the Growing Field of Regulations Impacts Businesses

The proposed rules over artificial intelligence (AI) in the European Union (EU) are a harbinger of things to come. Data privacy laws are becoming more complex and growing in number and relevance. So, businesses that seek to become — and stay — compliant must find a solution that can do more than just respond to current challenges. Take a look at upcoming trends when it comes to data privacy regulations and how to follow them. Today's AI Solutions On April…

Defensive Driving: The Need for EV Cybersecurity Roadmaps

As the U.S. looks to bolster electric vehicle (EV) adoption, a new challenge is on the horizon: cybersecurity. Given the interconnected nature of these vehicles and their reliance on local power grids, they’re not just an alternative option for getting from Point A to Point B. They also offer a new path for network compromise that could put drivers, companies and infrastructure at risk. To help address this issue, the Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) recently hosted a…

Why Quantum Computing Capabilities Are Creating Security Vulnerabilities Today

Quantum computing capabilities are already impacting your organization. While data encryption and operational disruption have long troubled Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), the threat posed by emerging quantum computing capabilities is far more profound and immediate. Indeed, quantum computing poses an existential risk to the classical encryption protocols that enable virtually all digital transactions. Over the next several years, widespread data encryption mechanisms, such as public-key cryptography (PKC), could become vulnerable. Any classically encrypted communication could be wiretapped and is…

How the CCPA is Shaping Other State’s Data Privacy

Privacy laws are nothing new when it comes to modern-day business. However, since the global digitization of data and the sharing economy took off, companies have struggled to keep up with an ever-changing legal landscape while still fulfilling their obligations to protect user data. The challenge is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution regarding data privacy's legal requirements. Depending on the location and jurisdiction, data privacy laws can vary significantly in terms of scope and enforcement. But while the laws…