8 Best Practices to Become Compliant with Privacy Laws

Updated on: December 16, 2023
With protection of user-data becoming a necessity, publishers need to start adopting new practices and incorporate data privacy as an integral part of their business strategies.

Emerging laws like the CCPA, LGPD, and GDPR make it mandatory for privacy regulations to be prioritized and many more countries are joining the bandwagon.

You also need to start following privacy laws to avoid being penalized. For instance, a single CCPA violation can cost you between $2,500 to $7,500. Violating GDPR regulations can cost you between 2% of your annual turnover or €10 million, whichever is higher (Tier 1 violation), or 4% of your annual turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher (Tier 2 violation).

As per the RSA Data Privacy and Security Survey of 2019, almost 58% of U.S. consumers would end relationships with companies that showcase little to no regard for the protection of customer data. Hence, making privacy compliance a priority for your business is the need of the hour, and adopting some of these best practices will prove to be a game-changer.

List of Privacy Laws Best Practices for Publishers

Understand Obligations

Knowing the exact obligations that your business needs to comply with is the first step to incorporating privacy and avoiding violations. Start by:

  • Staying wary of global, regional, and local regulations concerning privacy such as the CCPA, GDPR, or LGPD.
  • Following industry-specific privacy regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) or the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act of 1999 (GLBA) if you’re collecting sensitive patient data or financial data through your website.
  • Being wary of contractual obligations with your third-party vendor, or your customers concerning data processing.

How does performing Gap analysis help with privacy compliance?

Performing a gap analysis by comparing the current state of your website (privacy compliance efforts of your business in this case) with the intended state. This helps in revealing the areas that need improvement and ensures all regulatory, reputational, and legal obligations are being handled diligently.

Identify Risks

Another way to avoid violating privacy regulations is identifying the risks beforehand and avoiding them. This way you ensure that lapses do not occur, ideally safeguarding yourself from potential privacy breaches. Some best ways to assess risk include:

  • Auditing the ad server, third-party vendors, SSPs, and DMPs to make sure there’s no data leakage, cybersecurity attacks, chances of ad frauds, etc. 
  • Analyzing historical instances of data breaches and how they were handled by your company. Identifying the responsible parties for these breaches.
  • Conducting an audit for website vulnerabilities.
  • Hiring a professional to conduct a thorough Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) for you.

Implement a Privacy Framework

What is a Privacy Framework?

A privacy framework is a set of guidelines and strategies, enabling you to harmonize and aggregate, and finally integrate every compliance-specific requirement that applies to your business.

It also reduces subsequent data losses, identifies areas of high risk, and evaluates how well you’re abiding by various privacy laws and regulations. You can simply refer to these frameworks and use them as a basic foundation checking for gaps with regards to privacy compliance in your current business practices and implement strategies and best practices suggested by the framework to improve upon these areas.

It further allows you to experiment and adapt based on the basic structure of the framework. However, to make sure that the framework complies with privacy regulations, you should implement the following steps:

  • Data privacy refers to the processes and policies you utilize while collecting, using, sharing, and storing personal data, and is usually governed by regional, local, federal, or industry-specific laws. Data security is concerned with steps taken to prevent data leakage or unauthorized access externally or internally and is dependent on the quantity and type of data you collect and store. Differentiate between the two.
  • Classifying collected data into categories e.g. public, private, restricted, or confidential.  
  • Treating collected data like an asset.
  • Creating a data processing summary. 
  • Understanding what data you require for business and only collecting the same.
  • Establishing your privacy strategy’s scope based on your business’s nature, industry, region/location of operation, and implementing the privacy frameworks that best incorporate compliance regulations with respect to those. Some popular choices include AICPA, CCMC, ISO, NIST, etc.

Map Data

Privacy regulations like the GDPR mandate that a publisher must have comprehensive knowledge regarding the data they collect. This includes knowing the way this data is being used, its storage location, and the people who might have access to it. This can be achieved through data mapping. 

Data mapping involves matching separate fields of data between databases. It allows data to be homogenized before being used to derive insights for your business. Some key insights you can derive from data mapping include:

  • Is the data coming from users or third parties?
  • What purpose does it serve?. Is it for payroll, order fulfillment, etc?
  • The format and storage location of the data. Whether it is in Excel or Word format or stored as a CRM file, on a cloud, or in an in-house server.
  • Who has access to the data and how?

Prioritize Data Privacy in Your Advertising Practices

Comprehensive privacy strategy for publishers includes adopting a privacy-forward approach while monetizing ad inventories.

Wherever appropriate, you must implement a consent management platform. A CMP allows you to automate your consent management process. It ensures that you comply with various privacy policies. Some of the best CMPs for publishers available in the market include TrustArc, Quantcast, OneTrust, and Sourcepoint amongst others.

You can further integrate your CMPs to work alongside a consent framework like IAB’s Transparency and Privacy Framework (TCF), compliant with the GDPR, to give more control and transparency to users. Your users can select the vendors they wish their data to be shared with from a list of pre-approved vendors and you can share the data with only the selected vendors.

  • Make Use of a Customer Data Platform

Being a publisher you need to have a clear understanding of how your marketing and advertising partners are using user data collected from your website. While data mapping achieves this task to an extent, for a deeper understanding you need unified records of user profiles that have been collated clearly and concisely.

A Customer Data Platform allows you to create unified and persistent user databases using data that has been obtained, refined and amalgamated to form a concise singular user profile. Since other marketing systems use data made available by the CDP, you can get a clear picture of how the data is being used. However, make sure that you choose the right CDP to achieve the task, and not settle for simpler versions.

  • Stay Updated with New Data-privacy Laws

An extension of understanding your obligations, you must remain updated with the latest developments in data privacy laws. With many countries across the world still being new to privacy regulations, new laws are emerging constantly. 

To avoid violations, publisher privacy strategies need to be up to date. Make sure that you consult your legal team as it will enable you to stay updated with emerging regulations and their implications on your business. You can also follow our Adtech Weekly Newsletter which covers important news relating to the AdTech industry, including those concerning data privacy laws. Participating in forums like Improving Web Advertising Business Group, World Wide Web Consortium, and Privacy Community Group will also keep you updated regarding the latest privacy regulations. 

  • Concise Documentation of Privacy Policies

While it is a good practice to document the privacy policies of your company, some privacy laws like the GDPR and CCPA make it mandatory. Clear documentation is a great way to ensure that you have a go-to guideline while addressing privacy-sensitive issues such as the exact course of action during data breaches, access to data, and consent.

A well-documented privacy policy allows your users to have a clear understanding of how you are collecting and using data, and ways in which they might control it. Being upfront about how you might be using user data conveys to your users that you value their privacy and consent. You also need to make sure that your privacy policy document is updated according to contemporary regulations.

  • Provide Options to Opt-out

Proper consent is only applicable when users have the choice of opting out of sharing their data. According to surveys users are willing to share their information in exchange for personalization or rewards, but they also prioritize their privacy and want publishers and companies to seek their permission first. 

You can easily achieve this by creating a simple pop-up message that informs the users of why you need their data, what they would get in return for sharing it, how you plan to use it, and who would have access to it. They should have the option of opting out if they feel uncomfortable at any point, and the process must be as simple as toggling a switch on or off.

Prioritize Data Encryption

What are Data Encryption and its benefits?

Data encryption enables you to secure the data while it is being stored or being transferred using advanced encryption technology such that only the intended recipient can decipher it. It allows you to maintain privacy laws best practices, while also staying compliant with regulations like the HIPAA and FIPS that make it mandatory. Since data encryption strives to protect sensitive information, it ensures that privacy and anonymity are given the highest priority. 

Hire a Professional or a Data Protection Officer

You need to take the help of a professional who ensures that you stay compliant with the latest regulatory developments and protects you from committing privacy violations. Some of the best companies in the industry providing such assistance include OneTrust, TrustArc, and RSA, among others.

On the other hand, if you happen to fall under GDPR guidelines, and handle considerable user data of EU citizens, it is mandatory that you hire a Data Protection Officer or a DPO. Being a relatively new role, it comes with its own set of complications. However, hiring a DPO will benefit you in the following ways:

  • Instruct and educate you regarding crucial compliance requirements.
  • Provide comprehensive training to your data processing staff.
  • Serve as the Point of Contact between GDPR Supervisory Authorities and your business relieving you of such responsibilities.
  • Conduct necessary audits to isolate and identify compliance issues and address them accordingly.
  • Maintain detailed records of every data processing activity your business undertook and the reason they were conducted. If requested, GDPR mandates that these records be made available to the public.
  • Inform your users about their rights to data privacy and erasure of personal data, how it is being used, and the measures your business has implemented to ensure data protection.

Measure Performance

You can implement every best practice mentioned in the above sections and still fall short if you don’t consistently measure the performance of your strategy. To effectively measure how well your privacy management efforts are performing, following the below-mentioned steps will help:

  • Set KPIs such as what you need to measure, the method you are using, and when such measurement should take place to help inform you about various important aspects that might need your attention. 
  • Conduct internal and external audits to gain insight regarding the effectiveness of your privacy strategy. This helps you avoid ill-implementation and maintain a privacy-forward approach to your business.
  • Some key areas to ensure privacy compliance for publishers, measuring the number of near misses and breaches, the average time taken to report breaches, the average time taken to respond to subject access requests (SAR), is imperative.

Best-practices to become compliant with privacy laws

What’s Next?

It is without a doubt that data privacy and protection is one of the most important agendas of modern-day digital advertising and will benefit publishers greatly in the long run. Being a necessary requirement in today’s world, it can also be safely assumed that the upcoming future will bring forth new innovations and evolving understanding of the subject. While it might seem like a lot, incorporating these Privacy Laws best practices in your company’s privacy strategy will undoubtedly prove to be a great investment. 

We hope that we have provided you with adequate information regarding privacy compliance best practices. If you have any other questions, we encourage you to leave a comment and we will be happy to answer.

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