With the breakneck speed of technology innovation, consumers are demanding that companies implement ethical and transparent data privacy policies and processes. By creating a culture of proactive data compliance, organizations can pursue secure digital transformation and avoid the risks associated with regulatory noncompliance, such as substantial fines, loss of consumer trust and missed business opportunities.

Why Ethical Data Operations Are a Business Imperative

Today’s business climate brings new economic opportunities from rapid technological changes, as well as a whole new set of pressures and responsibilities based on heightened consumer expectations and increased security regulations. In fact, 62 percent of CEOs queried in a Gartner survey said their business has an active digital initiative, while 52 percent said the goal of such an initiative is to fully transform the organization.

While compliance has been long been a fixture in many industries, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has set a precedent for a new era of security legislation. Due to numerous high-profile issues, consumers have become even more aware of how brands collect, store and use their personal data and, as a result, they’ve become more concerned. Sixty-eight percent of U.S.-based consumers hope laws similar to the GDPR are passed on a global scale, according to a Janrain report. The same study found that consumers want to fully control how their personal data is used and hope to gain the right to ask brands to delete data.

Learn Why Data Privacy Is The New Strategic Priority

The tides are already shifting, and a number of U.S. states and other jurisdictions have begun to enact laws closely modeled after the GDPR. In the months ahead, organizations will face new regulatory pressures from the California Consumer Privacy Act, Vermont’s H.674, the Brazil General Data Protection Law, the New York Department of Financial Services’s 23 NYCRR Part 500 regulation and more.

Failure to get ahead of regulatory requirements can result in irreparable reputational damage. When compliance failures lead to a loss of sensitive data, companies risk significant fines and loss of customer trust. The pressure to create strong data privacy standards is fueled by increased regulatory enforcement, a growing global culture of accountability, and watchdog groups fighting for responsible corporate ethics and compliance.

Meeting the bare-minimum compliance requirements may keep organizations from facing costly fines or customer turnover, but the risks associated with a reactive compliance attitude are significant. Privacy legislation demands new business models, and agile risk management is critical to secure digital transformation. Approaching innovation without secure design processes can leave companies vulnerable to a wide range of risks, including the cost of replacing legacy systems in the future and lost productivity as teams spend hours reacting to issues.

Proactive Compliance Is an Opportunity

Seventy-two percent of executives agree that the “rush to digital transformation increases data breach and cybersecurity risks,” according to the Ponemon Institute. Yet where there are risks, there are also opportunities, and creating business processes to support agile compliance can enable companies to seize those new market opportunities.

Changes are inevitable in a dynamic regulatory climate, and the corporate risk function must be involved in creating a strategy for secure innovation. Getting ahead of compliance requires your organization to adopt agile processes, responsive policies, and transparency and communication. The result is a highly efficient approach to data compliance that can expand risk coverage in real time and help manage costs.

3 Steps to Transition to Proactive Data Compliance

Compliance and risk can’t exist as an isolated business function. The most successful organizations bring security, privacy and risk closer to executive strategy to get ahead of basic compliance requirements.

1. Align Compliance With Strategy

Leaders at compliance-focused organizations fully embrace proactive compliance as a strategic advantage by creating a culture of oversight. At the beginning of any shift toward more compliant operations, organizations should conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to discover opportunities and gaps and create a prioritized plan for improvement. As the enterprise shifts into long-term operations, an executive function that is informed by compliance has access to real-time tools for risk and compliance assessment with shared data dashboards and real-time reporting across physical and cloud environments.

2. Create Risk-Informed Leadership

Security regulations require a new set of leadership tools and approaches, including revised policies, enhanced skill sets and updated methods of communication. These capabilities will inform the entire organization and change work processes to boost productivity. Successful cross-functional collaboration requires a common framework for terminology, technology and performance metrics.

3. Establish Visibility

Getting ahead of compliance requires more than just regular audits and limited tools for vulnerability assessment. It’s crucial to establish a common approach to real-time monitoring and response so the chief risk and compliance officer (CRCO), chief information security officer (CISO) and other members of the executive team can better understand the compliance posture of sensitive assets and how security controls are performing.

Real-time compliance solutions can identify sensitive data assets and risks in complex enterprise networks and suggest remediation efforts when the enterprise moves out of compliance. Shared reporting can provide access to dashboards and key performance indicators (KPIs) for leaders across business functions. The outcome is real-time enforcement and remediation capabilities.

What Do Successful Compliance Programs Do Differently?

Leaders who take a more proactive approach to regulatory compliance have a different mindset and management style than their peers. The most innovative organizations create transparency across compliance, risk and innovation processes. Getting ahead of compliance requires organizations to adopt new technologies to solve the most common challenges: bringing privacy into innovation processes, increasing transparency for executive leaders and creating visibility across sensitive data assets.

Analytics and cognitive intelligence can improve your organization’s ability to monitor data compliance in real-time. Trusted third-party experts can create more effective organizational policies and processes for adapting to evolving requirements. Getting ahead of compliance requires insight into how to comply with security regulations that are evolving and an agile enterprise culture that actively responds to new insights.

Check out the Forrester report on technology practices for cybersecurity and privacy

More from CISO

How to Solve the People Problem in Cybersecurity

You may think this article is going to discuss how users are one of the biggest challenges to cybersecurity. After all, employees are known to click on unverified links, download malicious files and neglect to change their passwords. And then there are those who use their personal devices for business purposes and put the network at risk. Yes, all those people can cause issues for cybersecurity. But the people who are usually blamed for cybersecurity issues wouldn’t have such an…

The Cyber Battle: Why We Need More Women to Win it

It is a well-known fact that the cybersecurity industry lacks people and is in need of more skilled cyber professionals every day. In 2022, the industry was short of more than 3 million people. This is in the context of workforce growth by almost half a million in 2021 year over year per recent research. Stemming from the lack of professionals, diversity — or as the UN says, “leaving nobody behind” — becomes difficult to realize. In 2021, women made…

Backdoor Deployment and Ransomware: Top Threats Identified in X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023

Deployment of backdoors was the number one action on objective taken by threat actors last year, according to the 2023 IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index — a comprehensive analysis of our research data collected throughout the year. Backdoor access is now among the hottest commodities on the dark web and can sell for thousands of dollars, compared to credit card data — which can go for as low as $10. On the dark web — a veritable eBay for…

Detecting the Undetected: The Risk to Your Info

IBM’s Advanced Threat Detection and Response Team (ATDR) has seen an increase in the malware family known as information stealers in the wild over the past year. Info stealers are malware with the capability of scanning for and exfiltrating data and credentials from your device. When executed, they begin scanning for and copying various directories that usually contain some sort of sensitive information or credentials including web and login data from Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. In other instances, they…