The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new EU regulation aimed at helping to strengthen data protection for EU citizens and residents both within the EU and the wider world. Essentially it says to businesses and organisations “If you want to offer your services or products to customers who are EU citizens, you better make sure you look after their personal data or else!”
One data protection regulation to rule them all
The GDPR is a single set of rules that apply to all EU member states with each member state designating a Supervisory Authority (SA) to oversee and ensure compliance of the legislation. SAs will work closely together by virtue of the cross-border nature of digital data.
What in the name of Sir Isaac H Newton happened here?
A significant part of the GDPR is about transparency and informing data subjects (individuals) about what and how their personal data is being used, by whom and for how long. GDPR requires data controllers to state what data is being processed and for what reasons. Additionally, they are required to inform data subjects about how long the data will be stored for. They must also state who the subject should contact with regards to any part of the data controller’s data processing actions.
The digital Age Of Consent
Provable consent must be explicitly given to the data processor by the data subject before their data can be processed. Additionally, the data must only be used for the purposes that consent has been given. EG if someone contacts you through your website with an enquiry of some kind, that does not give you permission to add them to your email marketing list. Verifiable consent must be given by a minor’s parent or guardian before their data can be used. Consent must be able to be withdrawn by the data subject at any time.
Pseudony-who in the what now?
The GDPR makes reference to something called pseudonimisation. Put simply, this is a process to transform data in a way that stops it from being attributed to a data subject (an individual) without the use of additional information. An example of this might be using a unique reference ID for someone rather than their name when storing their data in a database. A second table of names and corresponding IDs stored on a separate system would then be used to join the tables together and recreate the data. In this way if a data breach occurred and the personal data was stolen, the data wouldn’t expose actual names just the additional data.
For us here at Fellowship, this is the most ambiguous part of the GDPR as it relies (to a certain degree) on how you interpret pseudonimisation. An often mentioned example of pseudonimisation is encryption whereby data is held in an encrypted fashion and requires a key (stored separately) to decrypt it. Websites that use HTTPS send data over an encrypted connection so you could say that if your website has an SSL certificate you’re on your way to GDPR compliance but the data in the database itself is likely stored unencrypted so if the database was breached the personal data would still be exposed. No CMSs that we’ve ever used have stored personal data in a truly pseudonimous way. We wait to see how WordPress and the other major CMS players address this.