Risk & Security

What Is Data Privacy Management?

Data privacy management enables organizations to secure sensitive data and remediate privacy breaches. The best tools assess the impact of technical changes on privacy, match IT activities against privacy regulations, and track incidents that can lead to unauthorized disclosures of personal data.

Businesses are under considerable pressure not only to manage the growing number of endpoints, but also to secure the sensitive data that these endpoints collect — from customer Social Security numbers and addresses to a business partner’s intellectual property. They must manage this enormous challenge all while maintaining compliance with a constantly evolving set of laws and regulations.

As privacy threats have increased, governments have responded with more stringent data regulations, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). While adhering to these regulations is time-consuming and costly for businesses, the consequences of failing to comply and falling victim to a data breach can be severe. Companies risk damage to their reputation, loss of business and fines.

Nevertheless, 90% of businesses are confident that should they experience a breach, they could report all required information to a supervisory authority within 72 hours — the required notification period for GDPR — according to a 2020 survey by Tanium. However, nearly half (47%) admit they lack visibility into all the connected computing devices on their network. Even a single missed endpoint could result in a compliance violation.

How the best data privacy management tools work

Data privacy management software helps businesses assess and measure data privacy compliance and adhere to privacy standards. In 2019, the market grew 60%, reaching more than $802 million in revenues, according to an IDC report.

The goal of data privacy management software is to help organizations secure sensitive data within distributed environments. Software saves companies time and resources as they automate processes and policies. It also reduces human error when complying with regulatory standards. Generally, solutions handle the following tasks:

  • Locate sensitive data. Before an organization can comply with data privacy laws, it has to know where its data reside. Data privacy management software scans scattered networks, endpoints, apps and cloud systems to locate both structured and unstructured data, which can often be hidden.
  • Automate discovery and classification. When staff members perform manual data classification, the work is more likely to be inaccurate, inconsistent and inflexible. Automated systems analyze data patterns to spot personally identifiable information (PII) and reclassify sensitive data as compliance regulations change.
  • Enable compliance with data privacy laws. As data privacy standards and regulations proliferate, data privacy management tools maintain compliance and mitigate security and noncompliance risk.
  • Handle remediation. When software identifies a data privacy risk, it offers remediation options that can save time and money while reducing legal and regulatory risk.

[Read also: Ten ways to improve data risk and privacy]

The benefits of modern data privacy management tools

Businesses generate more data than ever before, which makes it increasingly difficult to identify where data are stored. Without that insight, it can be impossible to know whether the data are sensitive and subject to regulatory requirements.

For businesses that do not keep tabs on data, the consequences can be significant. They risk hefty fines — which sometimes exceeded $100 million in recent years — as well as reputation loss that could impact the bottom line.

Data privacy fines have sometimes exceeded $100 million

Leading data privacy management tools aim to maintain compliance, even when data are dispersed and regulatory requirements are constantly changing. These solutions have a number of advantages:

  • Discovery of hidden data. Businesses can quickly scan a wide range of formats and classify data. This uncovers sensitive data that may not have otherwise been found.
  • Indexing of sensitive data. Organizations can quickly perform recurring or ad hoc queries about the sensitive data in their environment. This reduces network strain and lead times.
  • Heightened compliance. The best tools help organizations store sensitive data in compliance with the law, as well as generate reports to demonstrate compliance. Both tasks mitigate overall risk and reduce time to remediation.

Data privacy management tools remain essential to any organization striving for regulatory compliance. By discovering data, keeping track of it and ensuring that the appropriate controls are in place, businesses are better able to manage risk.

Kristin Burnham
Kristin Burnham is a freelance journalist covering IT, business technology, and leadership.