Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) exist to illustrate potential risks to GDPR data subjects’ privacy. They include information about data being collected, processes used, and risks involved. You may need to generate one if you work with the personal data of EU residents.
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What is the Purpose of a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA)?
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance ensures the privacy of EU residents by safeguarding data belonging to them. One way that the GDPR protects data subjects is by requiring Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIA), also known as Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA). They’re detailed reports on processes applied to data, and they illustrate the potential impact of said processing on the data subjects’ privacy.
Fully comprehending the purpose of PIAs requires understanding:
- What a PIA is (and what components are required at a minimum)
- When they are required (what circumstances necessitate them)
- How to conduct a PIA (and maintain GDPR compliance)
Working with a security program advisor will help your organization stay on top of its PIA needs.
What is a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA)?
The terms “Data Protection Impact Assessment” (DPIA) and “Privacy Impact Assessment” (PIA) are used interchangeably in the GDPR. They both refer to tests organizations need to run to predict the possible impact of data processing on data subjects’ privacy. They document granular details about the data itself, the processes it will be subject to, and any possible risks.
In particular, a PIA should contain the following, at minimum, per GDPR Article 35(7):
- A description of all processes intended for the data, including their purpose(s)
- An analysis of how necessary all processes are, relative to said purpose(s)
- An analysis of the risks that said processes impose on data subjects’ rights
- A description of measures in place to prevent and mitigate any risks identified
These factors all need to be analyzed and documented prior to the data being processed—or collected for a given purpose. Another critical element of GDPR compliance is transparency, notifying data subjects of the potential impacts of data processing prior to collecting it.
When Do You Need a GDPR PIA or DPIA?
If your organization is processing personal information that belongs to GDPR data subjects, and there are risks that could jeopardize those subjects’ privacy, you may need a PIA. The more sensitive the data in question, or the greater the risk to it, the more likely it is that you need one.
In particular, Article 35(3) of the GDPR specifies three conditions under which a PIA is needed:
- If there are judgments being made on the basis of automated processing, especially if those judgments concern personal details or could inform legal or monetary outcomes
- If large amounts of data related to special categories detailed in Article 9 (e.g., data on subjects’ sexual identity, etc.) or Article 10 (i.e., criminal history) are being processed
- If large amounts of publicly available data are being processed in a systematic fashion
These are not exhaustive conditions; even if these are not met, a PIA may still be needed.
Ultimately, a DPIA or PIA assessment may be required if the amount or kind of personal data you’re working with or the processes being applied to it entail a significant amount of risk.
How to Conduct a PIA for GDPR Compliance
The method for conducting a PIA can vary depending on the kinds of data you’re working with, the processes intended for it, and the maturity of your security and compliance infrastructure.
First, you’ll need to scope. Gather as much information as possible on the data that is or will be collected, as well as the processes that have or will be conducted, and any risks entailed. This will help determine whether a PIA or DPIA is needed. It’ll also form the basis of your report.
Then, you can begin the process of analyzing the factors collected and reporting on the risks to GDPR data subjects. Generally, your analysis will start with vulnerabilities, which are gaps and weaknesses in your data environment that can be exploited by threats (e.g., cybercriminals). Together, the likelihood of exploitation and its potential impact are expressed as risk.
Depending on your findings, you may need to notify data subjects or GDPR authorities—or both. For example, if unanticipated risks are unearthed, data processes that had been deemed compliant may now need additional clearance or consent from impacted parties to remain so.
Throughout the process, it may be beneficial to work with a GDPR compliance advisor.
Optimize Your PIA Data Privacy Practices Today
To return to the question above: what is the purpose of a PIA? They exist to document potential risks to data privacy for GDPR-protected data subjects. Organizations are required to generate them in cases where the amount or kind of data being processed, or the processes being used, could amount to greater risks for the data subject. PIAs need to include, at minimum, specific details about the data being collected, the processes being performed on it, and their risks.
While the purpose and concept behind PIAs are relatively straightforward, the process of conducting one can be complex and challenging. RSI Security is committed to streamlining it.
Contact RSI Security today to learn how we can support your organization’s GDPR compliance.