How to avoid violating GDPR with your company’s internal communications

Your internal communications play a leading role in your company’s success. From the happiness of your employees to the satisfaction of your customers—how your communications are structured and executed impact performance in every area.

The challenge is that business communication can be difficult to perfect. You need to find the right solutions for your internal teams, clients, and stakeholders. And there are multiple factors to consider: 

  • Security

  • Efficiency 

  • Effectiveness 

  • Employee needs and preferences

  • Laws and regulations

No company can succeed if its various departments don’t work in tandem with uniform objectives and vision.

Rajeev Bhardwaj, Sun Life Financial Asia Service Centre

New laws and regulations can have a massive impact on your business. Not only will they shape the way you operate, if violated, they can have financial or legal consequences, including no longer being able to serve certain clients. This extends to the set of regulations passed in the European Union in 2016, which came into effect in May of 2018 — GDPR. 

What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation. This new set of regulations began a massive change in data privacy in the European Union and throughout the world. GDPR was intended to improve transparency between technology companies and consumers and to protect consumers by allowing them to keep their data secure.

This data means any personal information that identifies an individual. This could include all of the following: 

  • Names

  • Images

  • Videos

  • Information posted on social media

  • Email addresses

  • Banking information

  • Medical history

  • Location information and IP addresses

Although there are few cases to date of major penalties, companies that fail to comply with GDPR can be fined up to €20 Million. 

GDPR has also influenced laws in the US. In June of 2018, California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act, which has similar protections for consumers included in GDPR. 

How GDPR affects your internal communications 

In today’s always-on world, even small, local businesses can serve customers all over the world. Although GDPR is a policy intended to protect citizens in the European Union and not in the US, it’s likely that it still applies to your business. Not only is it influencing new laws in the US, if your website, app, or services are available in the EU, you must abide by their policies. 

GDPR requires companies to safeguard against security breaches, and many security breaches stem from internal communications. Something as simple as an email sent between employees could include several types of personal data listed above, resulting in a breach and a violation of GDPR. 

The GDPR outlines several ways your business needs to act when dealing with internal communications and potential data breaches.

Privacy by design

The internal communication systems you use, in order to comply with GDPR, must be designed to include data protection measures from the start. Explained in GDPR

“The controller shall… implement appropriate technical and organizational measures… in an effective way… in order to meet the requirements of this Regulation and protect the rights of data subjects.”

This means that if your communication channels are not secure and built with appropriate data protection measures, they are not GDPR compliant. 

Breach notification

If you have a data breach, your company must notify customers within 72 hours of becoming aware of the breach. When employees are informed of the breach and discussing it through your internal communication channels, they could be held responsible for sending a notification to all customers within the 72-hour timeframe. 

Why you should follow GDPR with your internal communications

As mentioned earlier, if you serve customers and even collect information on web visitors from other countries, you need to be GDPR compliant. Failure to do so may result in being banned from serving EU citizens. 

However, there are other benefits of being GDPR compliant. 

Since the launch of GDPR, businesses, organizations, and consumers have become more aware of the importance of safe data collection, storage processes, and businesses protecting this data. Some consumers now demand it.

Showing your employees, clients, and partners that you’re GDPR compliant displays your dedication and commitment to user privacy and security.

How your company can become GDPR compliant with internal communications 

If personal information is being shared through unsecured internal communication tools in your business, you’re violating GDPR. Using personal email addresses and consumer-focused communication apps (WhatsApp) puts this sensitive information at-risk. You also risk violating GDPR if employees are sending personal information on customers while working remotely from an unsecured network. 

GDPR and similar regulations increase your responsibility to protect information and your internal communications. So how do you reduce your liability and meet this responsibility? 

Choose a business-grade communication solution that will protect all internal communications and is fully GDPR compliant. Next, ensure that a policy is in place and enforced that outlines how employees must communicate when discussing, sending, and receiving customer information.