Table of Contents
Since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), businesses have had to change how they handle and protect personal data. Data privacy law is important in protecting personal data and the systematic monitoring of individuals. One key component of being GDPR compliant is to have a data protection officer appointed.
This post is crucial for businesses to keep data safe, but it does carry a lot of responsibility. So, what is a data protection officer and what do they do?
The Role of Data Protection Officers in UK Businesses
Understanding the data protection officer mandate
To be compliant with GDPR, businesses must appoint a data protection officer (DPO). In an ideal world, the person you appoint to this position should know the GDPR mandate, have strong leadership skills and have experience working in an advisory capacity.
This isn’t always possible, however, so you can choose to outsource but this external person may not know the business as well as an internal candidate. Whoever is the DPO, you must ensure there is no conflict of interest with any of their other responsibilities.
Responsibilities of a data protection officer
The responsibilities of a DPO are vast and varied – this is why some businesses choose to have DPOs as an independent role as opposed to one that goes alongside another position.
One of the main responsibilities of a DPO is to inform any members of the company about their obligations to be compliant with the law. This can be in the form of training sessions, regular emails and individual meetings.
DPOs should also conduct internal audits of any data to ensure that they are being kept in accordance with the law. These audits should be performed regularly, and the findings communicated to the relevant management teams.
Finally, DPOs should be the point of contact for any data questions. This is applicable to the Information Commissioner as well as employees and customers whose data is being used and stored.
Benefits of having a data protection officer
One of the biggest benefits of having a DPO is expertise. Whoever is appointed will be able to guide you through the legal complexities of the GDPR mandate. The officer will help to protect your organisation’s interests through compliance. It is important to remember that compliance is not solely down to the DPO, it is a company-wide responsibility.
Improved compliance means your business does not run the risk of being penalised for not following the rules accurately. Companies could be fined up to £17.5 million, or 4% of the previous financial year’s turnover – whichever is the higher amount. Being able to avoid this is obviously a massive plus for having a DPO.
Having an employee who is the point of contact for all data-related queries can help foster an open communication atmosphere in your workplace, with people feeling able to ask questions and clarify issues.
By being able to discuss issues with board members all the way to the lower-paid people, there will be a feeling that data protection is an issue for all, creating a feeling of responsibility around the issue.