What Does It Mean To Be GDPR Ready?

September 6, 2018

The simplest explanation of GDPR is that it is a set of rules that protect individuals’ privacy. The legislation regulates the processing of EU residents’ and citizens’ personal data, including collection, use, transfer, monitoring, tracking and even viewing of personal data. It went into effect on May 25, 2018.

Data subjects, as individuals are called in GDPR, have more rights to control their data. This creates a massive compliance challenge for U.S. companies processing data from European citizens. 

Does GDPR Apply to You?

GDPR applies to any organization that processes the data of EU residents or citizens. Your company doesn’t necessarily need to be based in the EU. For example, if you’re holding a medical conference in Kansas and a German citizen attends, the data you collect in the U.S. would not be subject to GDPR. Any data you collect while that German citizen is still in the EU, however, would be subject.

GDPR applies to you if you:

  • Offer goods/services in the EU
  • Monitor EU data subjects’ behavior
  • Collect personal data from EU residents
  • Collect personal data only as part of a marketing survey
  • Have EU customers
  • Target data subjects in an EU country (generic marketing, i.e. not marketing specifically to EU residents)

Basic Definitions

Personal Data – Any information relating to an identifiable subject, or data subject. This data doesn’t need to be sensitive or secret. Name, email, ID number, photo, location and IP address are included under the umbrella of personal data. 

Controller – The organization which, alone or jointly with others, determines the purposes and means of the processing. 

Processor– Any organization that processes personal data on behalf of the controller. You can be both the controller and the processor if you’re collecting and processing the data and determining what it’s for.

The Controller-Processor Relationship

The Controller:

  • Determines purposes and means of processing
  • Can only use GDPR-compliant Processors
  • Has primary responsibility for compliance

The Processor:

  • Processes data on Controller’s instructions
  • Assumes liability of sub-processors
  • Deletes/returns data on request
  • Works with compliance audits
  • Takes reasonable steps to secure data
  • Notifies controller of data breach
  • Informs controller if processing instructions infringe on data subject’s rights

What Should You Be Doing At This Point?

First things first, you need to assess whether GDPR applies to you. Under GDPR, you have to disclose what you’re collecting, how you’re storing it and what you’re using it for in order to get consent from data subjects.

Then, you should determine what level of compliance is needed. Do a gap analysis of what you’re doing now and what the GDPR requires you to do.

Once you know your level of compliance, develop a plan for compliance. You should decide how you’re going to provide informed notice and get informed consent.

Finally, you should implement the plan, including:

  • Consult with outside counsel on legal obligations to make sure your plans are fully compliant
  • Update your website terms of use and privacy policy. Must present it properly that’s compliant with GDPR so that it is enforceable.
  • Make sure your vendor agreements cover data processing
  • Update internal processes documentation
  • Review your cyber insurance policy


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