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Technophobe’s Guide to: Data Compliance

Posted by James Huntington Wed, Jan 22, 2014

Data compliance is non-negotiable. Learn more about data compliance and how to protect your business.

With companies generating and storing ever-increasing volumes of data, data compliance has become a hot topic. Any business that holds personal data is bound by legal obligations and the need to maintain client confidentiality to protect your own reputation.

What is data compliance?

Essentially data compliance is the act of ensuring that all of your information storage, protection and processing mechanisms meet any legal and regulatory requirements. Data compliance is also used to describe the practice of standardising information for easy storage, transfer and sharing.

In the UK, data compliance is most often used to describe the process adhering to the Data Protection Act 1998. Some industries may have their own guidelines and best practices which they must also work to.

The Data Protection Act 1998

The Data Protection Act is a legal framework that applies to all UK businesses, governing how they use personal data. The key aspect of the legislation for any business falls under Principle 7:

“Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.” The Information Governor’s Office.

This video from the Information Commissioner’s Office gives some practical examples of protecting customer data and ensuring data compliance.

What do we need to do?

1. Get registered

If your firm handles personal data, you must register as a data controller with the Information Commissioner’s Office. Failure to do so could see your firm prosecuted and fined heavily.

The ICAEW has a handy eGuide for accountants about ICO registration.

80% of new firms are not registered as data controllers with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
- ICAEW research.

Processing personal data without a registration is punishable by a fine of up to £5000 in a Magistrates Court, or an unlimited fine in the Crown Court.
- Data Protection Powers and Penalties (Information Commissioner’s Office)

If you have problems with the registration process, the right IT partner will be able to assist.

2. Get protected

Your firm must then work hard to:

  • Identify where sensitive data is stored.
  • Verify that existing protection mechanisms meet your data compliance obligations.
  • Rectify and improve the security systems protecting the data.
  • Monitor systems for incidences of data misuse which may need to be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Many businesses can save themselves time, money and stress by using an expert IT partner who have experience of data compliance strategies.

Staying compliant

Data compliance is generally a case of applying common sense:

  • Understand your firm’s obligations under the Data Protection Act and other similar legislation.
  • Protect personal data at all times from misuse or theft.
  • Seek expert IT partner services to ensure systems and data handling procedures are compliant.
  • Be aware of how data is used in your firm.

Don’t risk your business critical data. Download your free eGuide now: How to develop a data recovery plan for a professional services business

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