Who Cares About Privacy by Design?

Who Cares About Privacy by Design?

privacy by design
privacy by design

News stories about companies mishandling or unnecessarily retaining customer data surface with alarming frequency. While some consumers seem unconcerned, others worry that companies are forcing them to largely surrender their privacy in order to have any real-world connections online.

As more and more of our lives move online, consumers are learning just how much of their data is being gathered for legitimate business purposes and exploitation alike. Companies that fail to account for increased privacy demands consistently fall behind. And when they do, privacy watchdog groups make them pay. EU privacy regulators have, as of this blog’s publish date, issued no fewer than 10 fines in April 2023 alone after organizations failed to fulfill their legal privacy obligations.

Why does this keep happening? Because most companies treat customer data privacy as an afterthought tacked onto their normal operations, rather than a critical procedure built into their systems, processes, and policies. Increasingly, privacy must be more integrated and a higher priority. To see what this should ideally look like, let’s take a look at a principle known as “Privacy by Design”.

What is Privacy by Design?

Privacy by Design is a concept developed by Ann Cavoukian, the former Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, in the 1990s. According to Cavoukian, privacy by design “advances the view that the future of privacy cannot be assured solely by compliance with regulatory frameworks; rather, privacy assurance must ideally become an organization’s default mode of operation.” In other words, privacy should be just as much of a corporate priority as any other major function.

Of course, there are a multitude of ways to implement privacy by design in any organization. But to keep business leaders from getting lost, Cavoukian also puts forward seven key principles designed to elaborate on the idea of privacy by design and to give managers a road map.

The 7 Privacy by Design Principles

The seven foundation principles of privacy by design are:

  1. Proactive, not reactive; preventative, not remedial
  2. Privacy as the default setting
  3. Privacy embedded into design
  4. Full functionality—positive-sum, not zero-sum
  5. End-to-end security—full lifecycle protection
  6. Visibility and transparency—keep it open
  7. Respect for user privacy—keep it user-centric

Each principle provides a unique goal your organization should strive for in your privacy plans. Let’s take a closer look at how these principles might apply in specific settings.

Privacy by Design in Your Organization

In your business, you might apply the seven principles like this:

  1. Proactive, not reactive; Preventative, not remedial: focus on preventing information leaks and improving data handling, rather than picking up the pieces after a disaster.
  2. Privacy as the default setting: automatically protect a user’s data privacy from the moment their info enters your systems. The user should not have to take any action to exercise their privacy rights—rather, protecting their rights is your responsibility by default.
  3. Privacy embedded into design: privacy principles, gathering only what is strictly required, and other restrictions should be an integral part of your systems, not simply tacked on as an afterthought.
  4. Full functionality—positive-sum, not zero-sum: the customer should not feel pressured to give up any other function to maintain their privacy.
  5. End-to-end security—full lifecycle protection: prioritize what Cavoukian calls “cradle to grave” data privacy. Data entry, data purging, and every step in between should and can prioritize handling the data respectfully and with privacy in mind.
  6. Visibility and transparency—keep it open: do more than just declare your compliance with data privacy requirements. Rather, make your system open and verifiable by others to prove your compliance and trustworthiness. Make it easy for your customers to view their data in your systems, and to edit or delete their data as they please.
  7. Respect for user privacy—keep it user-centric: the user’s interests and preferences come first. Users deserve easy and secure options to manage their data, regular updates on their data’s status, and excellent default privacy settings. This also means that your company should practice data minimization: only collecting the minimum amount of information necessary for processing, rather than constantly mining as much as you can.

Everyone Should Prioritize Privacy by Design

Building a culture of privacy in your organization is essential. Does your privacy team have all the tools they need to implement privacy by design? Try starting with our own privacy compliance software: 4Comply, a system that automates privacy compliance based on established regulations around the world. Contact us today to learn more.