DPIAs Made Easy

Written by Data Protection Apprentice, Caine Glancy.

Demystifying Data Protection Impact Assessments

In an era dominated by data, safeguarding privacy has become paramount. Enter the Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) – a powerful tool for ensuring data privacy compliance. This blog will demystify DPIAs, equipping you with the knowledge to navigate their intricacies efficiently.

By exploring the purpose, process, and benefits of DPIAs, you’ll gain a solid understanding of their role in promoting accountability and protecting individuals’ rights.

What is a DPIA?

A data protection impact assessment or DPIA is a tool that will be used by all organisations so I’ve created this blog to help clear up any common issues with DPIAs and provide some detail on this so organisations are aware of the importance of the assessment.

A DPIA is required where a new type of processing activity for your organisation is likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of data subjects. This means that the responsibility is on the controller to carry out an assessment of the impact of the anticipated processing activities to ensure that the personal data is protected.

Understanding DPIAs:

When you’re completing the DPIA it is crucial to first determine whether a DPIA is required or whether it just needs to be considered. Where a DPIA does not need to be conducted it may still be good practice to do so as the assessment is a great way for organisations to identify potential risks of processing and to put in action to mitigate them because, at the end of the day, a DPIA isn’t just to identify risks but to also mitigate them.

Although DPIAs could be considered or required for multiple reasons Article 35 provides us with instances where DPIAs are required under the UK GDPR.

DPIAs are required in the case of:

  • A systematic evaluation of personal data, based on automated processing, including profiling where the decisions made produce legal effects concerning or affecting data subjects.
  • Processing special category data on a large scale or personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences,
  • A systematic monitoring of a publicly accessible area on a large scale.

These are instances where a DPIA must be considered however, DPIAs can be conducted for numerous reasons and we will explore these options below.

When to conduct a DPIA:

In order to determine when a DPIA should be conducted I’d recommend you consider the following:

  1. Are we conducting any new projects that process personal data?
  2. Could this processing be considered high risk?

If you are on the fence as to whether the processing activity would be a high risk then we would recommend you first complete the DPIA checklist which informs controllers of whether the DPIA is required.

If it meets the requirement of the checklist then a DPIA should be undertaken however, DPIAs can be undertaken where the requirement isn’t met as an organisation’s best practice.

As we all know, a DPIA needs to be completed when the processing presents a high risk to the rights and freedoms of the data subjects but what does this actually mean?

Essentially it means any processing activity could put data subjects at risk of not being able to exercise their rights under the UK GDPR which could present a risk to the data subject.

Key components of a DPIA:

When completing a DPIA you should provide as much detail as possible to provide enough information to determine the risks of this processing, when I’ve reviewed DPIAs on the support desk I’ve found it difficult to fully understand and review the form without a good amount of detail.

The following areas should contain detailed information:

  • Description of the processing activity and its purposes,
  • Assessment of the necessity of the data processing,
  • The evaluation of potential risks to the rights and freedoms,
  • Proposed measures to mitigate identified risks to ensure compliance,
  • Documentation of the DPIA process and the outcome.

Collaborating on DPIAs:

When conducting the assessment we would recommend you involve relevant stakeholders such as DPO, legal advisors and relevant departments. You should do this to ensure that firstly, the DPIA is completed to a high standard but also so individuals are aware of the project and they can raise any concerns.

Benefits of conducting DPIAs:

  • Enhances privacy and DP practices,
  • Mitigation of potential risks and data breaches,
  • Building trust and demonstrating compliance with GDPR,
  • Improve decision-making in processing activities.

DPIA Best Practices:

  • Start early and integrate DPIAs into project planning,
  • Adopt a systematic and consistent approach to DPIA assessments,
  • Involve data protection experts and stakeholders from the outset.
  • Maintain thorough documentation throughout the DPIA process.
  • Regularly review and update DPIAs as circumstances or risks evolve.

So, in summary, a DPIA is a tool used to identify and mitigate the risks of high-risk processing activities and is an integral part of an organisation’s approach to complying with the UK GDPR.

At DPP we can help you with the following:

  • Replying to any queries around DPIAs efficiently,
  • Determine the need for a DPIA by reviewing the checklist,
  • A review of DPIAs completed by organisations, and
  • Helping organisations fill DPIAs out.

Get in touch with one of our team today if you would like support with your Data Protection Impact Assessments.

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