I finally figured out why this blog was so damned difficult [for me] to write; I’ve been thinking all wrong about what exactly a DPO actually is. Which is odd, because I had the exact same challenge when writing about CSO/CISOs, and I really should have learned from my mistake.
When you think about a CISO (assume this also means CSO), or a DPO, you instantly picture a person. Maybe your organisation already has one so their face springs to mind, or if not, you have a indistinct and faceless image of someone in a suit. The fact is, neither the CISO nor the DPO are people, they are functions. Multiple functions in fact.
And not only that, they involve multiple disciplines, skill-sets, even personal preferences. Most importantly, neither the CISO nor the DPO functions [performed correctly] are ever a single person. A DPO would, quite literally, have to be an expert in privacy law (both EU and national), contracts, risk management, policy development, distribution and audit, and understand all personal data flows throughout the business.
You therefore need to break the function down before you can move forward. For example; I broke the CISO function down into 3 distinct skill-sets/phases: Continue reading
You could almost be forgiven in thinking that words/phrases like; ‘pseudonymised’, ‘anonymised’, ‘access control’ or ‘encrypted’ are all that is required when reporting your technical and organisational security measures for Article 30 – Records of Processing Activities.
The UK’s ICO themselves provided a sample of what records of processing should look like, and even included examples of content. Their column headed “General description of technical and organisational security measures (if possible)” contains just two examples; “encrypted storage and transfer” and “access controls“. So in the absence of more detailed guidance from any supervisory authority [that I have seen] just what are organisations supposed to do?
First, you need to understand that in Article 32 – Security of Processing, the phrase “technical and organisational security measures” is qualified twice by the one word that makes the whole thing not only clear, but very simple; “Appropriate”.
Article 32(1): “Taking into account the state of the art, the costs of implementation and the nature, scope, context and purposes of processing as well as the risk of varying likelihood and severity for the rights and freedoms of natural persons, the controller and the processor shall implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk…”.
I’m not going to go into detail about how you define ‘appropriate’, I’ve already done that in GDPR: How Do You Define ‘Appropriate’ Security Measures?, but I am going to provide an example of what this would look like on the only medium that counts; paper.
Well, here we are, close of business May 25th, and oh look!, the sun is still shining, the world is still spinning, and no one [decent] went out of business.
What we do have however is an indication of who the world’s biggest muppets are. For example:
…and the list goes on and on.
As if the barrage of ridiculous and utterly meaningless emails over the last few months wasn’t enough, the spectacular ignorance shown by these and many other organisations defies belief. The only good thing I can say about these weapons grade plums is that they are actually taking GDPR seriously. They DID something. The fact that they are needlessly damaging their reputations is apparently beside the point.
If you hadn’t heard of the GDPR before the last month or so, you have now. You have all received at least one, and more likely dozens of emails from organisations with whom you have had some contact in the past. Most of whom you have probably forgotten about. e.g. I hadn’t used my Garmin account for over a decade but still received an email asking if wanted to ‘opt in’ to continue receiving its “many benefits”.
I wouldn’t mind so much, but every last one of these ‘calls for action’ is utterly, inexcusably, and embarrassingly wrong! Literally, not one that I have received has followed what amounts to a clear instructions from the many qualified sources available (i.e. ICO for the UK, Art. 29 WP for everyone else, numerous law firms etc.) on what to do.
Therefore both of the following are true:
- The organisations looking for GDPR guidance had no idea what they were asking for from their ‘expert’ help, or whom to ask; and
- The providers of the guidance had no clue what they were doing
I can also assume that no one in the respective organisations had actually read the GDPR, and the providers of guidance clearly learned just enough to fool all those who have remained clueless. Frankly these people deserve each other.
Here are some of my favourite vendor emails [paraphrased]:
- “If you don’t respond to this email we will assume you want to keep receiving emails from us.”;
- “Unless you read and sign our new terms and conditions we will cease all communication.”;
- “Our database of customers’ email addresses, including yours, will be deleted.”
- “If you don’t opt in to receive emails relevant to the services we provide you, we’ll stop sending them.”
- “Our website is not available to any European member state…”