Why should you be aware of how you handle sensitive personal data?
Privacy is a basic human right that protects the individual against misuse of their information. In addition to the moral obligations to treat sensitive personal data responsibly, there are many commercial and financial incentives to protect personal information, as it is often one of the most valuable assets of companies.
If you do not handle sensitive personal data correctly, it can lead to serious consequences. These include data leaks, identity theft, negative publicity and financial damage, as well as a potential sanction from the authorities.
Basic principles for processing sensitive personal data
All companies are obliged to follow the data regulation applicable in the region in question. For European companies, this is the GDPR. According to this, a number of basic principles for handling personal data must be observed. These include:
- Processing must be legal, fair and transparent.
- Personal data must be relevant and limited to the purpose for which it was collected.
- Personal data must be accurate and up-to-date.
- Personal data must be stored securely and in accordance with relevant laws and regulations.
When do you process sensitive personal data
Processing of personal data can take place in many different contexts, e.g. in connection with employment, administration, marketing, HR work, research and statistics etc. You process personal data when you:
- Collect personal data
- Store personal data
- Use personal data
- Transfer personal data
- Delete personal data
This includes everything from collecting names and addresses, registering credit card information or health data, sending student information or deleting employee information, etc. It is important to be aware that you may only process personal data when you have a lawful reason to do so, and that you complies with the relevant laws and regulations on the protection of personal data.
When is it illegal to process personal data?
It may be illegal to process personal data without a lawful reason, or if you process personal data in a way that is in breach of relevant laws and regulations on the protection of personal data. It is important to investigate and comply with the applicable laws and regulations in data protection regulations such as GDPR.
The penalty for mishandling personal data under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) can be quite severe. Penalties can include administrative fines up to 20 million euros or up to 4% of a company’s annual global turnover, whichever is higher.
In addition, organizations may also face legal consequences if they do not comply with the GDPR’s rules for processing personal data. This may include civil lawsuits by the affected individuals and negative reputational consequences that may affect the company’s reputation and customer satisfaction.
Handling of sensitive personal data
It is essential to have a systematic approach to the processing of personal data, including having clear procedures for the collection, storage, use, transfer and deletion of personal data. It is also important to have a crisis management plan to deal with data leaks or other security breaches involving sensitive personal data.
Here is an overview of steps you can follow to handle sensitive personal data in a secure manner:
- Identify the sensitive information you want to protect, e.g. name, address, CPR number, race, political affiliation, etc.
- Decide who needs access to the information and how it will be used.
- Choose a secure storage method for the information, such as encryption or physical security measures.
- Keep only the information you need and delete it when it is no longer needed.
- Ensure that all employees who have access to the information are aware of their responsibility to protect it.
- Monitor and log access to the information so you can track any unauthorized access.
- Give data subjects access to their information and the opportunity to object to its use.
- Comply with relevant laws and regulations on the protection of personal data, e.g. GDPR in the EU.
- Test and update your security measures regularly to ensure they are up-to-date and effective.
Remember that handling sensitive personal data is a continuous process, and you must continuously evaluate and improve your practices to ensure the security of the data.
The smart way to handle sensitive personal data
Handling sensitive personal data is an important task that requires a lot of time and resources. By following the above principles for handling personal data, you can protect the personal information you are responsible for.
At Safe Online, we develop tools that make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to process personal data in a responsible manner. The tools can help you in three key situations when you process personal data: