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How to Make GDPR Compliant Software—11 Key Steps

Paul Kovalenko Paul Kovalenko | January 3, 2023 | 5 min

Did you know that non-compliance with GDPR data regulations can culminate in fines of up to 4% of an organization’s global turnover? The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is exclusively legislated to guard the privacy of residents’ personal data in the European Union (EU). 

If you’re targeting this market segment with a software solution, it’s best to ensure that it’s GDPR-compliant to win consumer trust, safeguard reputation, and avoid hefty fines. But how do you do it? Here are 11 key steps to making GDPR-compliant software. 

Hire a Data Protection Officer (DPO)

Do you perform systematic monitoring of users’ private data regularly? If yes, hiring a qualified data protection officer (DPO) to be the liaison between your team and supervisory authorities sounds like the first prudent step. The DPO will also advise you accordingly on the core obligations of your business with regard to GDPR compliance. 

Alternatively, you can outsource the DPO roles to a trustworthy third party if your budget limits you from hiring in-house. The goal is to ensure that you have someone solely responsible for data privacy.  

Promote Awareness

The key decision-makers in your organization should be aware that the product design and deployment will most likely change with new data privacy regulations, in this case, GDPR. Start an awareness campaign to enlighten your team about the impacts of this enactment to have an easier time when implementation finally comes into play. 

Conduct an Audit 

A critical step to ensuring GDPR compliance is checking the type of personal user information stored in your database. You would also want to understand the origin of every data set and who has access to it—whether third parties are involved or it’s your internal team.

Conducting a thorough audit will help you get insights into these concerns. Moreover, it will help you determine whether you want to collect some types of data in the first place. Deciding to gather only the bare minimum of individual data will greatly help you foster GDPR compliance. 

Record Keeping 

Article 30 of the GDPR stipulates that businesses should keep electronic records of their processing activities. The provision targets organizations that employ at least 250 people or any company involved in regular or high-risk processing of personal user data. 

While this requirement might not be necessary for startups or mid-sized organizations with fewer employees, implementing it now is a proactive measure to ensure that your future data privacy needs are met. Moreover, it will foster a data protection culture within the company in the long run.

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Optimize Your Consent Forms

Under the GDPR guidelines, consent forms for seeking permission to use a user’s data for marketing and other business purposes should be either blank or set to a default “NO.” On top of that, you need to mention and ask express permission for all types of data processing that you intend to implement on the gathered information.   

Implement HTTPS in Your Application 

HTTPS implementation secures all communications between clients and software servers through next-gen encryption achieved by TLS cryptographic protocols. This will help protect the personal data in “Contact Us” forms, including emails, phone numbers, or physical addresses.

However, this approach only works if you have a credible and well-installed SSL certificate from a reputable certification authority. This is because you’ll send this certificate to users who request a secure HTTPS connection to use your software product. 

Be Transparent About Third Parties

Although marketers love third-party cookies for analytics-driven insights, consumers are increasingly becoming aware of the details that information collected and shared in this manner reveals. For instance, location data can reveal a user’s routine, which can be detrimental if it lands in the wrong hands.

If you can’t implement a self-hosted web analytics tool, it will help if you include the names of all third parties with access to the data in your consent forms. However, the latter option might not be a good idea in the long haul. 

Avoid Security Questions That Disclose Personal Information 

Security questions that prompt users to reveal their personal information before accessing your digital product are a big no in GDPR compliance. Instead, use other verification methods, such as two-factor authentication (2FA), if your goal is to deter cybercriminal activities.  

Allow Users to Withdraw Their Consent

The GDPR legislation grants users the right to be forgotten. This means you should provide a simple opt-out way allowing users to withdraw their consent whenever possible. In other words, focus on giving users a reason to stay on your list instead of forcing them to do so through hidden or missing opt-out options. 

Review Your Cookie Policies

The concept of granular consent still applies to functional cookies that allow your software product to remember user preferences, such as advertising and analytics. Moving forward, you should remove those cookies from your app. 

Alternatively, you can include them based on lawful grounds, such as user consent, legal obligation, or even requirements for executing a contract. For instance, you might need to gather payment information if your product targets contractors. 

Delete Unsubscribed User Data

As noted earlier, GDPR requires businesses to obtain consent from users before tracking their behavior and preferences for targeted campaigns. On top of that, you must inform users how the data will be used and stored in your systems. 

If users withdraw their consent, it only makes sense to delete their data from the system. Although you might still have an overriding legitimate interest to keep that data, deleting it can save you from unwarranted suits in case of a breach. 

Wrapping It Up

Being non-compliant isn’t an option, especially if you are going to tap the EU market, expand exponentially, and add happy customers to your list. With that in mind, implement all these steps if you are yet a privacy protection plan. If you need more clarification about your strategy, conduct a readiness assessment and determine which of the steps highlighted here need to be implemented. 

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