What happens if you breach the data protection act?
Data Protection laws apply to all types of businesses, and compliance at all times is essential. You always need to abide by these rules of governance and understand what happens if you breach the data protection act.
GDPR: why does it matter?
First, you might wonder what data protection laws have to do with website design and content, but the short answer is quite a lot. The introduction of EU regulations in the form of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set a new benchmark in handling personal data and the implications for companies that act in a way that breaches the rules.
Although the UK is no longer officially part of the EU’s GDPR remit due to Brexit taking effect from the 1st January 2021, the UK now has its own version in the form of the UK-GDPR Act. This is primarily tailored by the Data Protection Act 2018
The main point to remember about these changes is that the principles remain the same, and data protection rules apply to any UK business.
Here is a look at what you should know and why it is relevant to your business.
Why data protection matters for your business
As a company offering website development and design services in the Shropshire and West Midlands area and throughout the UK, one of our guiding principles is to take the utmost care with customer data in the age of GDPR. It is one of the reason we have opted to become accredited via ISO27001.
The ultimate aim is to deliver a website that is safe and secure. It also needs to be fully compliant with data protection regulations as well.
The main point to keep in mind about data protection regulations is that they are there to provide a degree of trust that you will use any data that you collect fairly and responsibly.
If you collect any sort of information about an individual for business reasons, you need to comply with the rules on how you handle and store that data.
The general remit of the UK data protection act is that it is designed to use a risk-based approach to data collection with a degree of flexibility. The bottom line is that the act very much puts the responsibility on you and your business to take steps to look after this personal data and justify why you need it.
The data protection act is all about providing a framework that requires you to comply with the general requirement to collect the information fairly and properly.
Although it is a legal requirement to comply with data protection rules and principles, it also makes sense to be very proactive and thorough with your data collection methods, as this helps build trust in your business.
It is also vital to maintain compliance with data protection legislation as the consequences of breaching the law could be quite severe.
Every business is different
When you read through data protection guidelines, you will most likely notice that the documentation doesn’t actually provide a set of specific rules for you to follow.
Data protection rules are mainly based on some fundamental principles and highlight certain risks that you need to mitigate against. It takes the view that every business is different, and your task is to interpret and adapt the rules and principles of the act to fit your own particular business.
What is a breach, and what happens if you breach the data protection act?
Before we look at the consequences of breach GDPR, it makes sense to have a clear idea of what a typical data breach looks like.
The data protection act describes a personal data breach as a security breach that results in either accidental or unlawful destruction
Some examples of breaches are:
- When an unauthorised third party manages to access personal data
- A deliberate or accidental action or failure to act by a controller or processor of data
- If you send personal data to the wrong recipient
- Personal data is lost or stolen
- You alter personal data without permission to do so
- You are unable to make data available when a request is made
These are prime examples of data breaches, but there are plenty of different scenarios and circumstances where you could fall short of the data protection standards required if not enough care of diligence is exercised.
The general point to remember is that a personal data breach is invariably going to be a security issue or an error that results in confidential personal data being compromised.
What are the consequences of a data breach?
In terms of what happens when you breach the data protection act, you may get fined one of the main things that could happen.
The level of fines and sanctions imposed as a result of a data breach can vary greatly and will often depend on the severity of the breach and what action you took, before and after, to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.
A key point to remember is that Data Protection laws have toughened up in recent times and individuals now have very clearly defined rights that give them more control and say over how their personal data is used.
One of the first things you need to do once you are aware of a data breach is to inform the Information Commissioner’s Office within 72 hours of the breach being discovered.
This action is an important part of your compliance with Data Protection rules.
As well as potential fines and the prospect of litigation against your business if someone decides to seek damages, you could damage your reputation if the incident attracts adverse publicity.
Company directors and appointed officers of the business could also have action taken against them if it is found that they did not exercise due diligence in ensuring compliance.
Achieving compliance with your website
It would be a good idea to carry out a full audit of all relevant aspects of your website, such as privacy requirements and cookie notices, to be sure that everything is legally compliant.
Your terms and conditions also need to be robust enough to help your defence if a dispute is raised.
The spirit of Data Protection guidance is all about making you aware of your obligations as a business and website owner and helping you identify potential weaknesses by creating a checklist of points you need to cover.
Now that you know what happens if you breach the data protection act, it's time to ensure your website is compliant with the current regulations. Mistakes and security breaches can happen at any time, but if you are proactive and diligent when it comes to staying compliant with Data Protection laws, it should help you to deal with a situation efficiently and avoid potential consequences if the Information Commissioner is not satisfied.
We can help with GDPR compliance as part of the website development and design services we offer. Get in touch to find out more about this and other services we offer.