How SMEs should deal with data protection laws

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Today, more business data than ever is being collected. Just think of your own business: there are your business plans; your confidential emails and documents; and, of course, sensitive details about your employees and customers that they wouldn’t want you to share with others. The way data is used – or misused – regularly makes headlines in the media.

While a complex data protection policy would be overkill for most small and medium enterprises (SMEs), it’s crucial that they address data security in a way that’s legally compliant, measured and practical. Where should SMEs start? You can make a good start by keeping in mind the following advice.

Make sure to know who processes your data

SMEs are responsible for what data is kept and how it is used. It is important that data is protected while it is being created, transported and stored. The “data processor” could be the company, an ICT-provider or a mixture of both. Roles and responsibilities depend on the kind of model they have for their ICT services; for example, whether they use an ICT partner to provide services for them.

Check and maintain employee policies to keep data safe

With the rise of mobility and trends such as BYOD, it is harder to manage company data and keep data safe. SMEs should have and maintain clear data protection policies, and make sure their employees know what those policies involve. For example, employees should know what to do and who to call when their mobile device gets stolen.

Take responsibility and ask ICT partner for guarantees

It is the responsibility of SMEs to ensure their ICT partner supports their data protection policies. Partners can provide written assurances that the data is adequately protected by the service they provide. For example, they may do this via marketing material, contractual assurances to the company itself, or through security standards such as ISO27001 and other certification.

Be aware of the European laws on data protection

Legislation on data protection and privacy is complicated and there has been quite some discussion about it. The European Union Directive 95/46 sets a minimum standard for protection of personal data across the EU. Some member states have adopted a stricter approach in their local laws. Each EU member state has a supervisory authority to oversee compliance with data protection and privacy laws in their country.

Ask ICT-partners for advice

As the volume of data generated by businesses continues to grow, ensuring regulatory compliance is a complex business. It is useful to regularly check for new rules and legislations about data protection. However, as SME’s want to focus on their own business and not on the latest data protection laws, they should not hesitate to rely on the expertise of their ICT partners and ask them for advice on data protection.

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