The role of a Data Protection Officer

Do you know who will keep track of your organization's compliance with GDPR? Data Protection Officers do, and you can learn more about them here.

07-12-2023 - 6 minute read. Posted in: gdpr.

The role of a Data Protection Officer

Since its introduction in 2018, the GDPR has set guidelines and regulations for how any organization should process and handle personal and sensitive data. This forced organizations to familiarize themselves with the 7 principles of GDPR and adapt to these principles.

GDPR can be a complex matter to navigate through, and since it’s mandatory to any organization to follow these rules, many organizations have decided to employ a data protection officer (DPO) so they make sure that they follow and comply with the GDPR.

What is a Data Protection Officer (DPO)

An organization may want to employ a DPO if they handle and process a lot of personal data. A data protection officer is responsible for ensuring that the company processes data in compliance with the GDPR.

According to GDPR, an organization and their employees must handle personal data with care and follow the 7 principles. That includes how long the organization stores the data, how many people have access to it and general consent to giving data and information to the organization.

The DPO is thus responsible for ensuring that every employee in the organization handles and processes personal data with utmost care. It will affect everyone, from customers and business partners to employees, and they should all be assured that their data is handled with care.

  • Whenever there is a case with GDPR the DPO will be involved.

The only responsibility that the DPO has, according to GDPR, is to advise and support data processing. The DPO will, however, also help in practical terms when it comes to making compliance protocols and plans, and instruct employees on the data regulations and monitoring GDPR compliance.

When is a DPO necessary?

You might wonder when an organization needs a data protection officer. The size of the company or industry doesn’t really matter - as long as you handle personal data (which essentially every company does) you should have someone who monitors your GDPR compliance. There are, however, some instances where it’s mandatory to employ a DPO.

  • If you’re a large-scale company that regularly monitors personal data you are obliged to have a DPO.

  • If you’re a public authority you cannot avoid handling and processing personal data hence you need a DPO.

  • If you’re a large-scale business that processes special data - which essentially is sensitive data.

Remember that not all organizations fall under these categories however they might still benefit from having a DPO who solely focuses on GDPR compliance. The GDPR rules can be tricky to understand but you can risk great GDPR fines if you don’t comply with them. That is why a DPO can be a good investment to any organization who handles personal data.

The Responsibilities of a DPO

We’ll look a bit closer at some of the responsibilities that a data protection officer has:

Compliance overview

One of the DPO’s main responsibilities is to make sure that the organization complies with GDPR. This includes staying up to date with any new regulations and adjustments of existing regulations and laws. They will thus make sure that any necessary changes comply with new laws and regulations.

Risk assessment

The DPO makes in-depth risk assessments to detect and identify potential vulnerabilities in how an organization processes data. DPOs understand potential risks and can thus mitigate the threat of breaking the GDPR regulations.

Data subject rights

Organizations need a bridge between them and data subjects (the people whose data is processed) and here the DPO enters the picture. DPO’s inform data subjects of their rights - like the right to erase their data or to withdraw consent. The DPO will thus ensure that the organization responds and acts accordingly.

Awareness training

Awareness training is one of the most important things when it comes to cyber security but also GDPR compliance. A DPO will help employees do their training through workshops, sessions and campaigns so every employee knows about the newest regulations and knows how to protect and handle personal data.

Data breach management

If an organization should become victim of a data breach, the DPO will play an essential role in coordinating the organization’s response to this. DPO’s will make sure that the organization reports to regulatory authorities and the people affected by the breach as well as implementing new measures to prevent any future breaches.

Qualifications of a DPO

It’s important to hire a qualified candidate as the organization’s DPO. A data protection officer should be experienced in the GDPR and know how to operate in the complex world of processing personal data.

  • They should furthermore have experience working with global privacy laws and the EU since GDPR is a core set of rules in the EU.

  • DPO’s should uphold a high standard of confidentiality and honesty when they’re working with personal data.

  • Communication is key in a DPO’s job, so good communication skills are also important to a good DPO. Lastly, a future DPO should also have worked with IT programs or software before - it’s a complex process to review compliance and regulations.

The future of data protection

We see a great development in the world of data protection and processing. Technologies like AI can improve how we process and handle data and make our job, as well as the DPO’s, a lot easier.

Beside AI, we see big data and IoT devices that pose a new challenge in the data processing industry - challenges that need new solutions like AI. However, technology cannot solve this problem alone, so data protection officers will be in the front of any company’s GDPR compliance. They ensure that companies stay compliant with any new and current laws and regulations.

Data protection officers have a central role in any organization that handles and processes personal data. They keep the integrity of the organization they work for but also protects the rights of the people whose data they process and handle.

DPO’s will continue to be relevant and play a key role in maintaining compliance with GDPR that has been around for quite some time now. DPO’s will thus help us stay vigilant, compliant and updated on any new and current regulations, so we handle personal data with great care.

Author Caroline Preisler

Caroline Preisler

Caroline is a copywriter here at Moxso beside her education. She is doing her Master's in English and specializes in translation and the psychology of language. Both fields deal with communication between people and how to create a common understanding - these elements are incorporated into the copywriting work she does here at Moxso.

View all posts by Caroline Preisler

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