Since the commencement of GDPR, companies across the world – and not just the EU – have been under immense pressure to comply with the new regulations.

Given the fact that GDPR is one of the most far-reaching data protection laws ever created, its impact on businesses is apparent – especially for those in the area of big data and analytics.

GDPR imposes several restrictions on how companies collect, store, processes, manage and analyse data, governing every aspect of data use – from storage to portability, accessibility, to consent. It also places control over the overall ownership of personal data back into the hands of users, thereby getting rid of the gray area that previously existed.

So, how does GDPR impact big data and analytics in general? And what can you do to enable and ensure compliance? Let’s find out!

What impact does GDPR have on analytics?

The General Data Protection Rule (GDPR) is a regulation that looks to give end-users more control over how their personal data is collected and used. While the regulation was intended to safeguard the privacy of all citizens of the European Union, today it has become a worldwide norm. It has now compelled every enterprise to abide by the framework.

Although GDPR has its bearings on every industry, its impact on data science is particularly massive. It imposes limits on how businesses profile customers and process personal data, compelling them to take several measures across data collection, user consent, data storage, usage, retention, and disposal.

In a nutshell, with the implementation of GDPR, every organisation who uses analytics has to:

  • Be more transparent about what information they’re collecting, how they’re collecting it, what it will be used for, and who it will be shared with.
  • Take consent from users to allow the collection of information and give them the right to see what information is being stored and used.
  • Explicitly state how the collected information will be given to consumers through specific, informed, and unambiguous disclosures.
  • Remove information from their systems as well as every other organisation or system they’ve shared the information with – in case of no consent.
  • Provide proof of the steps they’re taking to be in compliance with the new regulation and how user information is being protected.
  • Notify users of a data breach within 72 hours and ensure compliance or face the brunt of fines as high as €20 million or 4% of the company’s annual global revenue – whichever is greater.
How can you drive compliance?

If you use any kind of data analytics – which you must be, given the digital era – you must be collecting data about your business, processes, employees, customers, markets, competition, and more.

In that case, you have no choice but to take steps to be compliant with GDPR standards: from taking consent from users to collecting their information to deciding how long you can store user data before having it deleted automatically – there’s a lot you need to do to enable and drive compliance. Here are some tips:

  • Enable access control: To make sure your analytics systems are compliant with GDPR, a good place to start is by making sure data is only made available to authorised people. Having the right access control mechanisms in place is a great way to safeguard personal data. You should also have controls in place that keep a record of all data access – making it easier for you to trace instances of unauthorised access.
  • Anonymise data: Data anonymisation is a great way to ensure the privacy and protection of user information. To ensure GDPR compliance, you can either take the encryption route or remove personally identifiable information from your data sets, so people whose data you’re using remain anonymous.
  • Embrace privacy by design: One of the biggest steps analytics teams will have to take to ensure GDPR compliance is to embrace privacy by design – from how your analytics strategy is developed to how your algorithms, systems, and stacks are built – you need to integrate privacy and security in every element of your analytics framework from the very beginning. You also need to audit the data you collect regularly, limit its exposure, and document the information you collect, store, and process.
  • Disable automatic personal data tracking: With users spending so much time online, it is natural for companies to track their online activities for analytics purposes. However, for GDPR compliance, you might have to disable personal data tracking and have mechanisms in place to mask IP addresses, user IDs, and any other information that helps in identifying specific users.
  • Integrate consent boxes: Personal user data is a treasure trove of information for the modern business. If you want to continue tracking personal data, you’ll first need to get user consent. Integrating consent boxes with your website or mobile application is a great way to get the data you need while staying compliant with GDPR.
  • Revisit your data retention policies: Since the inception of analytics, companies have been collecting and storing user data in massive data warehouses and now on the cloud. However, with GDPR in effect, you can no longer store user data forever; you can keep it only as long you need it for data processing after which, it has to be deleted. This not only ensures the secure disposal of personal data, but also reduces the risk of using inaccurate, out of date, or irrelevant data for analysis purposes.
Use GDPR as an opportunity

For the analytics world, data is the lifeblood that ensures the accuracy and relevance of results. However, with the arrival of GDPR, it might seem like the available pool of data for analytics has decreased. But that’s not entirely true. The controls that GDPR brings with it aims to not only safeguard user privacy but also ensure the data that analytics companies use is updated, relevant, and accurate.

Love it, hate it – but there’s no escape from GDPR. At the end of the day, the only thing you can do is to have controls in place to comply with GDPR and gain the trust of your customers.