Today, businesses have unprecedented access to personal data.
Machine learning and AI have enabled companies to collect and analyze their users’ data like never before. Using such data can improve customer experience, help make better business decisions, and streamline internal business processes.
Data processing entails a great deal of responsibility for the companies. They must comply with legal regulations (such as GDPR, CCPA, etc.) and fully protect and secure users’ data. An affordable privacy software with efficient processes strengthens a business’s ability to comply more effectively and offers automated workflows, which saves time and money, ultimately producing a better return on investment (ROI).
What is privacy automation?
Privacy automation automatically facilitates all tasks involving your customers’ personal data. Essentially, it means performing privacy tasks without any or little human involvement, which saves time and energy.
These tasks usually include:
- Handling customers’ data privacy requests (for example, deletion or copy requests)
- Government and regulatory compliance
- Data mapping
- Consent management and cookie tracking
- Vendor risk assessment
- Providing transparency and choice
Companies handle data privacy in two typical ways, either manual or automated.
In a world where companies deal with massive amounts of information or Big Data, it’s clear why managing this information through automation is much more efficient than handling it manually.
Let’s examine some of the reasons for this.
A manual approach to privacy, plain and simple, slows things down. For example, when a company receives a data privacy request, the process usually begins with verifying the user, reviewing all data sources one by one, which may include the Personal Identifiable Information (PII), taking the appropriate action, and then closing out the request.
The process is long and usually requires time and energy to extract different sets of information from various data sources within a company’s internal operations.
While it’s true that manually processing privacy requests can result in better control over data, there are very few benefits beyond that. In fact, this process could pose serious legal and financial problems for a company.
Dealing with data privacy manually causes problems because:
- It’s time-consuming
- It’s not a cost-effective use of an employee’s time
- It’s often overwhelming
- It allows for more human error
But that process can be automated and integrated into your existing data sources, becoming one of the most effective tactics a company can use to manage privacy.
Why is privacy automation important?
There are several reasons why you need to start considering privacy automation. Read on to discover them.
Turning time into profit
There can be a significant time difference between manual and automated processing of privacy requests. Many organizations cannot respond to data subject requests (DSRs) in a timely manner and with the desired level of accuracy.
In addition to the additional time, those involved in handling privacy requests may find the process difficult and expensive without technology. Time and money aside, privacy automation can also help your brand. One of the most effective ways to build trust is through consistency. You can set proper user expectations by automating how you handle privacy requests or control your data sources.
That same consistency is also great for creating better internal processes. Automation can assist in developing a timeline for handling privacy requests and managing data inventory to meet privacy regulations. It may help you manage and allocate your resources more efficiently.
For example, let’s say it takes you 1-3 days to fulfill a data access request (DSAR), or in other words, a request from a user to give them a copy of their information from your data sources. Knowing this timeframe will help you allocate and manage your resources more efficiently.
Turning focus into more profits
Those who use an automated privacy management platform can respond to large amounts of DSRs quickly and more efficiently, as well as with more certainty of precision. This, in turn, allows for faster processing and cost savings. Whether a company chooses an internal or external tool for privacy automation, automation can benefit from cutting costs on software and paying personnel to handle the requests.
As a result, companies gain users’ trust and are less likely to spend company profits on support or legal services in case of a data privacy error. Additionally, businesses can have employees focus on other tasks essential for growing the business, ultimately producing greater ROIs rather than spending time searching for data and responding to requests.
Using automated tools (such as privacy management platforms) is a must for businesses to thrive in today’s market, and the ROI on using such tools is becoming easier to quantify.
When calculating the automation value, several factors should be considered:
- The total time saved
- Time saved by employees
- Time saved by the user
- The cost savings of fewer errors and training.
This amount would then be subtracted from the money invested in automation.
Applying these concepts gives you a clearer understanding of what ROI you can expect from infrastructure automation.
Automation can right wrongs
People make mistakes. It happens to the best of them, even to the experts. But as AI processes in technology advance, automation can help significantly reduce human errors at any stage of the data pipeline. This way, you can be certain you handle each privacy request efficiently without having anything fall between the lines.
Think about your company’s data sources: How can you know that you have mapped them all? Manually conducting this data mapping, which includes endless surveys and interviews with employees, only covers 20 to 30 percent — putting you at potential compliance risks.
The reasons for this vary, but they include employees who don’t remember signing up for certain software as a service (SaaS) tools that may hold your company’s users’ data, Shadow IT of employees that left, inaccurate reports, and so on.
With automated data mapping tools, you can cover almost all of your organization’s data sources. With real-time, continuous data mapping, you know exactly what data you have stored, making deletion easier and ensuring no data is left behind.
The time is now
With the massive amounts of personal data now being accessed and analyzed along with the compliance requirements, companies not using proper privacy automation are left behind and at risk for the potential of devastating financial consequences.
Many companies are well on their way to integrating privacy automation within their business. In an interview, Bethany Singer-Baefsky, Data Protection Officer at iRobot (recently acquired by Amazon), said the company had implemented a comprehensive automated data privacy process that features opt-in choices and encryption along the data pipeline.
Every step of the way, attention is directed to customer data rights. She said all customers could request account deletion, and the data will be permanently deleted within 30 days of the request. Automation tied into the existing data sources makes responding to customer requests more efficient.
Likewise, the Data Privacy Officer at Wix, an Israel-based software company that offers cloud-based website development, noted in an interview that speed and accuracy in terms of data privacy are crucial to the company. He said once the company implemented a clear and visible consent banner, conversion rates increased for the site.
He also noted the company has a mission to not only automate processes that make things easier for the company but is also committed to ensuring the customers understand those processes so that they can, in turn, make their own sites stronger in terms of privacy and security.
“That’s why when tackling compliance issues, we do not only make sure we as a company are compliant with privacy regulations, but we also help our users — who are website owners — by providing them the tools to help them be compliant with privacy regulations (and other regulations, such as Accessibility for example),” he said.
“As we did with our Data Subject Requests internal solution, we developed a Cookie consent solution for Wix while developing an additional Cookie consent solution for our site owners as well.”
How automated data mapping enhances privacy
Think of data mapping as the way to find where your customer data is stored (across internal and external data sources). It can be done manually, with surveys and employee interviews, or automatically — through email technology, single sign-on (SSO) integration, website scan, and procurement integration.
A reliable automated process for data mapping can greatly assist with privacy compliance. In terms of handling a DSR, the ability to find all identifiable information about a user is crucial.
It’s also efficient in producing a required Record of Processing Activities (ROPA). For example, as required by the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union, the ROPA report can be easily generated from the data mapping software.
The required information for the ROPA includes reasons for the processing, data categories, data recipients, and the company’s security measures. Without automation, this process would be a daunting task with room for error in a manual setting. However, data mapping can extract information quickly and accurately.
Some of the other advantages of data mapping for businesses include:
- Audit preparation and control
- Compliance with privacy laws
- Growth of a customer base
- Future growth predictions
- Organized company data
- Strong employee production
- Increased ROI
Getting started with privacy automation
Sometimes, the most challenging part of implementing a new process is just getting started. The goal is to work smarter, not harder. And when it comes to protecting your company’s and customers’ rights, there’s no time to waste. The fastest way to achieve growth is through a privacy management platform.
The first step when considering which platform can help your business with automation is to determine your user size, the size and depth of your business, and where in the world you do business. Once you have these answers, compare them against the considerations of the industry in which you operate. Industry requirements differ depending on the area. For instance, the healthcare industry may have stricter governmental regulations than other industries.
Next, take a look at your existing data sources and organizational data schema. Ask yourself how they are (or aren’t) working together.
In terms of privacy automation, combining existing data source operations can produce efficient results. Software that allows for a one-stop-shop setup streamlines the process and produces the speed and accuracy that edges out the competition and builds trust with your audience.
A number of privacy operations can be integrated to strengthen privacy automation and provide more transparency and consistency, resulting in faster timelines for access and deletion requests. These operations include automated workflows, custom templates, standardized privacy centers, and data mapping.
Not all privacy automation platforms are alike; some are outdated, offer bad user interfaces, and are overall hard to operate. Some platforms even send out emails (forwarding the issue to another) instead of automating privacy tasks to completion.
Data privacy management software users want easier setup, easier use, and better user adoption, as many platforms don’t give the experience they receive.
This is why you should check whether your desired privacy solution is easy to implement, set up, and operate (with adequate UI/UX). You may use G2’s rankings for this. Be on the lookout for badges and awards that privacy platforms receive, including the “Users Love Us” badge (which indicates a high user rating).
Privacy automation FAQs
Still, have questions? For more information, see these privacy automation FAQs.
How important is privacy automation in today’s world?
As data privacy regulations and compliance laws become more complex, companies must seek privacy automation. There is a much greater risk of incompliance when privacy tasks are handled manually, setting a company up for potential financial hardship.
These hardships may sometimes make it difficult to rebound financially or socially. With the advancements in technology and experts in the field who can help companies navigate the data source systems needed to keep them safe and profitable, there really isn’t a good reason not to implement privacy automation sooner rather than later.
Data privacy management software vs. governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) software
While GRC software can track reporting and updating activities to ensure companies are in legal and regulatory compliance, data privacy management software is focused on achieving those same results while also affording additional automated activities, such as completing DSARs.
Is data privacy management a one-size-fits-all approach?
Just as each company is unique in various ways, so is the need for a data privacy management tool that works best for that business. There are various factors to consider, including privacy regulations in different locations and the size and scope of the business.
For example, what works for businesses operating in the healthcare space may have different considerations than those in the financial space. It’s imperative that companies assess their data and work with a professional provider to determine the best-suited data privacy automation practices.
What should I look for in a data privacy platform?
Regulations and laws regarding data privacy support the values that companies should be good corporate citizens. To that end, companies should find data privacy partners that align with that mission. Look for a dedicated and agile team to set up tailor-made integrations with your data sources and offer 1:1 support via instant messages (such as Slack).
Additionally, companies should first analyze their data and automation needs, then find a platform that best supports those initiatives.
Do data privacy platforms offer trial periods or free demos?
Many data management providers offer free demos or trial periods to help company officials test software to ensure a good fit before they commit to buying. The additional benefit of working with a provider before any money is paid is that a company can get a feel for the support and technical services they can expect going forward.
Is there a list of data protection laws for different countries?
Yes! The International Comparative Legal Guides (ICLG) keeps a comprehensive list of data protection laws and regulations in 33 jurisdictions. Familiarizing yourself with the current laws and regulations in the countries where you do business is helpful information when selecting a data privacy partner to ensure your data privacy needs are met.
Note that laws and regulations are continuously updated, and new ones are implemented on an ongoing basis. Keep abreast of the changes and additions as they become available.
How to handle data deletion requests?
As aforementioned, user data requests can be handled manually or automatically. Most aspects make it better to handle DSRs (of all kinds) automatically since you can save a lot of time, money, and resources with the right tools.
Customers trust their private data to remain private, and if it doesn’t, then that trust completely erodes. Don’t let that happen to your business. Maintain customer trust, your reputation, and stay compliant by enacting privacy automation.
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