How To Avoid Violating GDPR With Your Company’s Internal Communications

The way companies handle data has never been more in the spotlight as it is now. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) introduced rigorous new standards, fundamentally reshaping data privacy across the European Union and setting a benchmark worldwide. For internal communications professionals, understanding and adhering to GDPR is not just about compliance; it's about safeguarding trust and integrity within your organization. 

In this blog, we will dive into what GDPR means for your internal communications and how you can ensure compliance.

What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation. This comprehensive set of regulations was enacted to enhance transparency between technology companies and consumers, and more importantly, to bolster consumer rights in keeping their personal data secure. Since its implementation, GDPR has initiated a significant transformation in data privacy not just within the EU but globally.

Personal data under GDPR encompasses a wide array of information that can identify an individual, including:

  • Names
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Information posted on social media
  • Email addresses
  • Banking information
  • Medical history
  • Location information and IP addresses

Companies found in breach of GDPR regulations can face severe penalties, with fines up to €20 million or 4% of annual global turnover, whichever is higher. While there have been limited cases of major penalties to date, the potential financial and reputational damages are substantial.

Furthermore, GDPR's influence extends beyond Europe. For example, in June 2018, California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act, echoing GDPR's consumer protections.

Who needs to comply with GDPR?

The European Commission states that "the GDPR applies if”:

  • Your company processes personal data and is based in the EU, regardless of where the actual data processing takes place
  • Your company is established outside the EU but processes personal data in relation to the offering of goods or services to individuals in the EU, or monitors the behavior of individuals within the EU

How GDPR affects your internal communications 

Internal communications often involve sharing and processing personal data among staff across various platforms and tools (e.g., emails, messaging apps, intranets). Under GDPR, any misuse or mishandling of this data can lead to significant compliance issues. 

The regulation mandates that organizations must ensure personal data is processed lawfully, transparently, and for a specific purpose. Once that purpose is fulfilled, the data should be securely deleted.

Why you should follow GDPR with your internal communications

Complying with GDPR is not just a legal obligation; it’s a critical component of your organizational integrity. Following GDPR helps protect your employees' data privacy and builds a culture of trust. It assures your workforce that their personal information is handled with care and respect, which can enhance employee satisfaction and loyalty. Additionally, strong data protection practices can safeguard your company from data breaches that might lead to financial loss and damage to your company's reputation.

Short checklist: How your company can become GDPR compliant when it comes to internal communications 

Achieving GDPR compliance within your company’s internal communications involves several strategic steps:

  1. Conduct a data audit: Start by assessing all the personal data you collect and process. Understand where it comes from, how it’s used, and when it’s disposed of. This audit will help you identify potential risk areas.
  2. Minimize data usage: Apply the principle of data minimization by ensuring that only the necessary data is collected and used for specific purposes.
  3. Consent: As the European Commission states, obtaining employee consent for data collection is tricky. Even with clear, documented permission, the employer-employee power imbalance makes it difficult to guarantee truly "free" consent. This is because employers typically hold more power, so an employee might feel pressured to agree.
  4. Implement security measures: Ensure that appropriate technical and organizational measures are in place to secure personal data. This could include encryption, secure data storage solutions, and regular cybersecurity training for employees.
  5. Develop clear policies and procedures: Establish robust policies and procedures that comply with GDPR. This includes having clear protocols for data access, processing, and deletion. Ensure these policies are communicated effectively to all employees.
  6. Implement a comprehensive GDPR awareness program: This program can include regular training sessions, but should extend beyond that. Consider incorporating elements like intranet messages, email reminders, or even posters to keep GDPR principles top-of-mind for employees.
  7. Designate a Data Protection Officer (DPO): Depending on the scale of data processing activities, appoint a DPO to oversee data protection strategies and ensure compliance with GDPR.  The GDPR requires a DPO for certain organizations, such as public authorities or those processing special categories of data on a large scale.  Even if not mandatory, a DPO can be a valuable asset to ensure GDPR compliance.
  8. Review and update regularly: GDPR compliance is not a one-time task. Regularly review and update your data protection practices, policies, and training programs to keep up with any changes in the law or shifts in the technology landscape.
  9. Choose GDPR-compliant communication tools:  Prioritize communication tools that demonstrably adhere to GDPR regulations. Avoid tools from large organizations whose data handling practices raise compliance concerns. This includes, but is not limited to, services like WhatsApp.

Keeping your information safe, at all times

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