If You Are Struggling With GDPR, Then You Are Not Alone

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Well, it's only 5 days to go until the infamous GDPR deadline of 25th May 2018 and you can certainly see the activity accelerating.

You would have thought that with the deadline so close, most organisations would be sat back, relaxing, safe in the knowledge that they have had 2 years to prepare for GDPR, and therefore, are completely ready for it. It's true, some organisations are prepared and have spent the last 24 months working hard to meet the regulations. Sadly, there are also a significant proportion of companies who aren't quite ready. Some, because they have left it too late. Others, by choice.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being invited to sit on a panel discussing GDPR at Equinix's Innovation through Interconnection conference in London.

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As with most panels, we had a very interesting discussion, talking about all aspects of GDPR including readiness, data sovereignty, healthcare, the role of Cloud, and the dreaded Brexit!

I have written before about GDPR, but this time I thought I would take a bit of time to summarise three of the more interesting discussion topics from the panel, particularly areas where I feel companies are struggling.

Are you including all of your personal right data?

There is a clear recognition that an organisation's customer data is in scope for GDPR. Indeed, my own personal email account has been inundated with opt-in consent emails from loads of companies, many of whom I had forgotten even had my data. Clearly, companies are making sure that they are addressing GDPR for their customers. However, I think there is a general concern that some organisations are missing some of the data, especially internal data, such as that of their employees. HR data is just as important when it comes to GDPR. I see some companies paying far less attention to this area than their customer's data.

Does Cloud help or hinder GDPR compliance?

A lot was discussed on the panel around the use of cloud. Personally, I think that cloud can be a great enabler, taking away some of the responsibility and overhead of implementing security controls, processes, and procedures and allowing the Data Processor (the Cloud Service Provider) to bring all of their experience, skill and resources into delivering you a secure environment. Of course, the use of Cloud also changes the dynamic. As the Data Controller, an organisation still has plenty of their own responsibility, including that of the data itself. Therefore, putting your systems and data into the Cloud doesn't allow you to wash your hands of the responsibility. However, it does allow you to focus on your smaller, more focused areas of responsibility. You can read more about shared responsiblity from Oracle's CISO, Gail Coury in this article. Of course, you need to make sure you pick the right cloud service provider to partner with. I'm sure I must have mentioned before that Oracle does Cloud and does it extremely well.

What are the real challenges customers are facing with GDPR?

I talk to lots of customers about GDPR and my observations were acknowledged during the panel discussion. Subject access rights is causing lots of headaches. To put it simply, I think we can break GDPR down into two main areas: Information Security and Subject Access Rights. Organisations have been implementing Information Security for many years (to varying degrees), especially if they have been subject to other legislations like PCI, HIPAA, SOX etc. However, whilst the UK Data Protection Act has always had principles around data subjects, GDPR really brings that front and centre. Implementing many of the principles associated with data subjects, i.e. me and you, can mean changes to applications, implementing new processes, identifying sources of data across an organisation etc. None of this is proving simple.

On a similar theme, responding to subject access rights due to this spread of data across an organisation is worrying many company service desks, concerned that come 25th May, they will be inundated with requests they cannot fulfil in a timely manner.

Oh and of course, that's before you even get to paper-based and unstructured data, which is proving to be a whole new level of challenge.

I could continue, but the above 3 areas are some of the main topics I am hearing over and over again with the customers I talk to. Hopefully, everyone has realised that there is no silver bullet for achieving GDPR compliance, and, for those companies who won't be ready in 5 days time, I hope you at least have a strong plan in place.

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