Discover what privacy impact assessments are, how they work, and if your organization needs them.
Published 6 Jan 2023
Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA) are increasingly important when considering the handling of sensitive data. A PIA is an evaluation process that identifies and addresses potential privacy concerns related to a system, project, or unique data handling. It involves understanding the scope of a project or design; collecting information about the expected use of any personal or sensitive data; verifying that necessary technical and organizational measures are in place, and entitling individuals to their rights regarding the collected data.
A comprehensive program helps organizations ensure compliance with current state, federal and international legislations and maintain trust between employers, employees, customers, and vendors. It’s not enough to store data securely – companies must be able to explain to everyone affected how their private information is being used. Taking such considerations into account gives organizations a competitive edge and ensures the ethical treatment of all involved parties.
A Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) helps organizations prioritize privacy from the beginning when launching a new business, introducing a new product, or acquiring an existing one.
Similarly, with personal data processing taking place all the time within an organization and risks continually evolving due to changes in technology and other factors — Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs) must be conducted on an ongoing basis. In addition to being essential for businesses’ own risk management strategies, DPIA completion is also mandatory according to the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Here are some of the misconceptions about PIAs:
The Directive on Privacy Impact Assessment mandates that organizations complete PIA’s whenever an individual’s personal information is at risk of being affected by a program or activity. Here are some activities that would require a PIA:
To generate a comprehensive PIA report, consider including the following:
Follow these steps for an efficient PIA process:
The first step of the PIA process is a threshold assessment wherein organizations determine if their program or activity falls within the scope of the Privacy Act and requires conducting a PIA.
Eliminate manual tasks and streamline your operations.
Once you have finished your threshold assessment, it’s time to organize how you will conduct your PIA. As you devise the plan for this vital task, consider the following:
A distinct comprehension of the project’s purpose is a crucial foundation for everything else in the PIA procedure. Conducting a privacy impact assessment will help you identify the most privacy-sensitive way to design a project that achieves its goals. Here is the different information to include:
It’s important to talk to stakeholders who will be affected by the project or are interested in it. Through their experience and expertise, they’ll be able to identify privacy impacts and solutions. Depending on the project, you may consult the following:
Identifying the types of personal information involved and handling is essential to the success of this project. It should include the following:
To determine if there are any privacy risks, you need to check how the project deals with personal information. It includes checking if the project follows privacy principles.
After identifying the privacy risks, deciding which action should be taken to mitigate them is essential. In some situations, there will be multiple solutions; for these cases, you may need to evaluate the costs associated with each option along with their benefits and risks to determine which one would work best.
Below are options that can help address privacy issues:
Prepare the report containing the following details:
Stakeholders should review and endorse the completed PIA. The project team needs to develop an action plan and timeline to address any risks or recommendations. It could involve further consultation with stakeholders, training of staff, revising procedures, or implementing additional privacy controls.
The PIA should be reviewed regularly during the project to ensure that it reflects any changes regarding privacy issues. PIAs should be updated if the project undergoes any significant changes.
Before processing anything that suggests a “high risk,” you must conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA). Even if the actual level of danger is not yet known, it’s still necessary to look for elements that may lead to serious repercussions or harm individuals on a large scale.
A Privacy Impact Assessment should be triggered whenever there is a proposal to collect, use, store or unusually disclose personal information that could risk an individual’s privacy. It usually occurs when an organization introduces or changes processes, systems, technology, or practices involving personal data.
Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), PIA must prioritize an individual’s data rights and freedom. To ensure these are being met, it’s vital to consider involving PIA during the entire project lifecycle—from beginning to end—as this allows for potential privacy risks to be identified early on and addressed before releasing or setting out a project into production.
Ideally, a system should be audited once every three years without any changes to ensure accuracy and security. However, when significant modifications are made to a system, its associated PIA must also be adjusted to ensure that any information is not compromised.
PIA is a detailed process that requires careful consideration of the privacy risks and impacts associated with any changes or processes. With SafetyCulture, you can:
SafetyCulture's cloud-based platform also allows for secure sharing and collaboration with stakeholders, making it easy to identify potential risks to privacy and ensure compliance. With SafetyCulture, you can be confident that your organization follows the appropriate privacy regulations and protects people's data.
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.
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