The Significance of Internal Controls for Organizations’ Data Privacy

Data privacy has been considered as an important business objective for organizations. It mainly deals with users’ sensitive or confidential data that may include personally identifiable information (PII), credit card data, or personal health information.

Through effective data privacy practices, organizations can avoid unwanted actions like the unauthorized access and use of data. Besides, organizations can also build trust with the “data subjects” or data owner. It can even help organizations to collect, save, and process personal data according to the regulatory compliance obligations or specific industry standards.

However, it takes various controls to run an effective data privacy program. All these controls can protect data from inappropriate access and losses, take care of its confidentiality, simplify data management, and reduce data protection challenges.

Below are the six most important data privacy controls for organizations:

Data register

Data register can be described as a catalog of all the data we possess. As the first measure to create a data register and begin a data privacy program, organizations may need to use data discovery.

Having data discovery can clarify many essential details, from what types of personal data the organization stores and processes, whether the data is in unsafe or protected locations, who can access the data, how long the data is stored, to when the data is wiped out. It can be the key in understanding an organization’s data ecosystem, so we can prepare the data register and fill it with important descriptors, like data retention period or even details about the data protection officer (DPO) who’s responsible to secure the data.

Data Protection Officer (DPO)

It is the job of a DPO to oversee the organization’s data privacy and protection efforts, while assuring that the business complies with laws and regulations. For a large-scale data processing organization, assigning a DPO is mandatory, as the person will also represent the organization to authorities and data subjects.

Security system

Protecting personal data and maintaining regulatory compliance means that organizations must perform plausible organizational and technical measures. Organizational measures may include privacy policies, systematized procedures, risk assessment, data governance practices, data audits, and also training and awareness. Meanwhile, technical controls are about automatic and consistent controls with predetermined rules, such as physical security controls, limits on data sharing and transfers, data encryption, data removal standard, and data security fabric (DSF).

Authentication and access controls

Managing who can access the data and under what condition plays a huge role in maintaining data privacy. It requires strong authentication and access instruments, for example the use of strong passwords, multi-factor or biometric authentication, and remote access.

Running tests

If organizations want to identify risks to their data, they need to run vulnerability assessments and “pen tests.” The results of the tests will help the security team to determine the right security actions to mitigate the risks.

Third-party risk management (TPRM)

Working with a large number of vendors, suppliers, and other business partners can be quite a challenge for organizations in protecting data. For that reason, companies are urged to apply some fundamental TPRM controls for data privacy.

Organizations can ensure all third parties have carried out proper controls to protect consumer data through due diligence assessments. In addition, organizations have to make sure that their contracts have included clear data protection responsibilities and obligations. It is also possible to perform regular risk assessments and audits, while requiring the third parties to keep complying with the compliance requirements.

To meet operational, reporting, and compliance-related objectives, it is crucial for organizations to implement the right internal controls for data privacy. It is not only useful in protecting user data from unauthorized access, but also in ensuring the proper use of data by organizations.

Solid information privacy controls can also be vital to protect the data from malicious actions. It can contribute to the maintenance of data integrity, confidentiality, and consistency, while helping the company follow all applicable data protection rules.