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

Bringing threat intelligence and adversary insights to the forefront: X-Force Research Hub

3 min read - Today defenders are dealing with both a threat landscape that’s constantly changing and attacks that have stood the test of time. Innovation and best practices co-exist in the criminal world, and one mustn’t distract us from the other. IBM X-Force is continuously observing new attack vectors and novel malware in the wild, as adversaries seek to evade detection innovations. But we also know that tried and true tactics — from phishing and exploiting known vulnerabilities to using compromised credentials and…

What’s new in the 2023 Cost of a Data Breach report

3 min read - Data breach costs continue to grow, according to new research, reaching a record-high global average of $4.45 million, representing a 15% increase over three years. Costs in the healthcare industry continued to top the charts, as the most expensive industry for the 13th year in a row. Yet as breach costs continue to climb, the research points to new opportunities for containing breach costs. The research, conducted independently by Ponemon Institute and analyzed and published by IBM Security, constitutes the…

Cyber leaders: Stop being your own worst career enemy. Here’s how.

24 min read - Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you find your favorite audio content. We’ve been beating the cyber talent shortage drum for a while now, and with good reason. The vacancy numbers are staggering, with some in the industry reporting as many as 3.5 million unfilled positions as of April 2023 and projecting the disparity between supply and demand will remain until 2025. Perhaps one of the best (and arguably only) ways we can realistically bridge this gap is to…

Poor communication during a data breach can cost you — Here’s how to avoid it

5 min read - No one needs to tell you that data breaches are costly. That data has been quantified and the numbers are staggering. In fact, the IBM Security Cost of a Data Breach estimates that the average cost of a data breach in 2022 was $4.35 million, with 83% of organizations experiencing one or more security incidents. But what’s talked about less often (and we think should be talked about more) is how communication — both good and bad — factors into…