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  • Writer's pictureNat Sharp

Are you GDPR compliant?

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GDPR for small businesses

In today's digital age, data privacy is more than just a buzzword—it's a necessity. For small business owners, understanding and complying with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) isn't just about avoiding hefty fines; it's about building trust with your customers. This blog post will help you understand what GDPR is, how it has changed operations for small businesses, and what steps you need to take to ensure compliance within your marketing.

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect on May 25, 2018,  revolutionising how businesses handle personal data. But what exactly does it entail?

GDPR basics

GDPR is a regulation set by the EU to strengthen and unify data protection for individuals within the EU. The aim is to give individuals control over their personal data and simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU.

Impact on small businesses

For small businesses, GDPR means more than just updating privacy policies. It requires a fundamental shift in how you collect, store, and use personal data. Non-compliance can result in significant fines—up to €20 million or 4% of your annual global turnover, whichever is higher.

Why does GDPR matter to small businesses?

Data breaches are increasingly common, and consumers are more concerned about their personal information than ever. Complying with GDPR not only helps you avoid penalties, but also enhances your reputation as a trustworthy business.

GDPR rights

To comply with GDPR, small businesses must understand the rights it grants to individuals. These rights are designed to give people more control over their personal data.

Right to access:

Individuals have the right to access their personal data and understand how it's being used. This means you must be able to provide a copy of the data you hold about an individual, free of charge, upon request.

Right to rectification:

If the personal data you hold is inaccurate or incomplete, individuals have the right to request that it be corrected. This is crucial for maintaining the integrity of your data and ensuring customer satisfaction.

Right to erasure:

Also known as "the right to be forgotten," this allows individuals to request the deletion of their personal data when it's no longer necessary for the purposes for which it was collected. There are certain conditions under which this right can be exercised, so it's essential to be aware of them.

To understand the essential aspects of GDPR in further detail take a look at Xero's comprehensive guide on GDPR for small businesses.

How GDPR has changed small business operations

GDPR has brought about several changes in how small businesses operate. From data collection to storage and processing, every aspect of handling personal data is affected.

Data collection:

Under GDPR, businesses must obtain explicit consent from individuals before collecting their data. This means no more pre-ticked boxes or ambiguous terms. Consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous. This must be built into your marketing communication including any emails.

Data storage:

Once data is collected, it must be stored securely and this could be across multiple platforms from your CRM system to your accounting software. This means using encryption and other security measures to protect data from breaches. Additionally, you should only keep data for as long as it's necessary for the purposes for which it was collected.

Data processing:

When processing data, businesses must ensure it's used only for the purposes for which consent was obtained. Any changes in the way data is used require fresh consent from the individuals concerned.

Practical steps for small businesses to take to comply to GDPR

Achieving GDPR compliance may seem daunting, but breaking it down into manageable steps can make the process more straightforward. Here are a few steps to help:

Conduct a data audit:

Start by conducting a data audit to understand what data you hold, where it comes from, and how it's used. This will help you identify any areas where you may not be compliant.

Update privacy policies:

Your privacy policy or privacy notice should clearly explain how you collect, use, and store personal data. Make sure they're easily accessible on your website and written in plain language. There's a great template you can use here from the ICO.

Implement security measures:

Invest in robust security measures to protect the data you hold. This includes using encryption, secure servers, and performing regular security audits.

Train your staff:

Ensure that all employees understand GDPR and their role in maintaining compliance. Regular training sessions can help keep everyone up to date on best practices and new developments.

Final thoughts

Achieving GDPR compliance may seem like a daunting task, but it's essential for protecting your customers' data and building trust. By understanding the requirements, implementing the necessary measures, and staying informed, you can ensure your business remains compliant and enjoys the benefits that come with it.

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