How to Make your Software Development GDPR Compliant: a Checklist

May 22, 2020

It’s been 2 years since the General Data Protection Regulation came into force. This period has shown that staying GDPR compliant is a new norm for anyone who handles personal data. Now, what looks like giving tons of data processing consents to users, has become a challenge to businesses that need to abide by the law.

Fortunately, the necessary level of data security is easy to achieve with the right software. Such tools are designed with regulatory compliance and top-notch data protection in mind. They collect, process, and store user data in the ways approved by law enforcement bodies.

Want to make sure your software development team designs GDPR compliant software? Read on to learn more about:

What Is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

GDPR is an acronym of the General Data Protection Regulation that came into effect on the 25th of May 2018 to protect the personal data of the EU and EEA citizens. This law gives individuals more control over what data they share with third parties. It also unifies the diversity of local European regulations into a single data security standard. This helps international companies achieve global compliance and creates a universal regulatory environment.

GDPR is particularly renowned for its million-euro fines. Although only a few crashing penalties have been levied against the global giants, such as Google, Marriott International, and British Airways, experts believe that we should expect more actions from regulatory bodies in the upcoming years. This makes GDPR compliant software an essential element of business continuity and successful operation.

Who Needs to Worry About Complying with GDPR?

Any organization that collects, processes, and stores personal data of the EU and EEA citizens is subject to GDPR. This relates both to the entities located within the regulated areas and those who handle EU citizens’ data remotely. For example, if your company is located in Chile but serves users from France, you must achieve GDPR compliance anyway.

Note that personal data includes not only the full first and last name or other obvious personal identifiers. It’s any information that — when collected together — enables abusers to find out who is the related individual (e.g., pseudonyms, address, location data, physical characteristics, etc). Therefore, if your company uses or designs software that handles such personal data and targets the EU and EEA areas, you need to meet GDPR requirements for your software products and/or services. More about complying with GDPR below.

6 Key GDPR Requirements for Software Development (with GDPR Compliance Requirements List)

Even though GDPR doesn’t focus on specific market segments and types of companies, it has the most evident impact on software development. Various mobile applications, services, web resources, and solutions are the point of contact between end-users and organizations. They enable both parties to exchange, process, and store personal data for continuous communication. Thus, even having GDPR compliant software may be enough to make a company meet regulatory requirements. On the other hand, low-quality software may result in a breach of the law.

Here are 6 main GDPR takeaways for software development vendors:

1. Run risk analysis

Before starting to work on regulatory compliant software, you need a plan. Be sure to understand who are the end-users and what features related to data processing they will utilize. For example, if you are about to design a delivery mobile application, you need to request location access permission. Once you get a clear idea of the future product, determine the riskiest and the most vulnerable of its components. This should help you set priorities and design the solution with security and GDPR compliance in mind from the very beginning.

2. Register what data you handle

When the functionality is agreed on, be sure to analyze what types of data you handle to provide services. Name, payment details, location, address, social media are just a few of the main data types. To meet GDPR requirements for software development, set up a personal data register. This document explains why the company collects user data and includes the categories of data subjects, recipients, storage, access level, responsible file owner, etc. To make the register maintenance easier, consider using Data Flow Charts, Data Inventories, Data Indexes, or other data mapping tools.

3. Get user consent and be transparent with your GDPR Privacy Policy

You need to implement the mechanism that requests and records user consent before collecting personal data. Separate the concise consent solution from your GDPR Privacy Policy that details data processing and storage. For example, a pop-up with a checkbox and an Agree button is a common solution for application development. It’s essential that consent is “presented in a manner which is clearly distinguishable from the other matters, in an intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language (Art. 7, GDPR).” Actually, the $57 million Google’s fine was related to ambiguous user consent, so take it seriously.

4. Collect and store only the necessary information

Data minimization is one of the pillars of GDPR compliance. The information processed with the software must be limited to the minimum data necessary to provide services. This helps you protect users in case of a hacker attack and significantly reduces the risk of personal data leakage. To retain access only to critical data, use OAuth login, automatically delete unnecessary and outdated data, and store related information in separate databases. These simple steps considerably increase information security.

5. Embed privacy in every detail

Think about security long before you launch the product and start collecting personal data. Make the maximum privacy your default setting to protect users who wouldn’t configure security features otherwise. Consider using pseudonymization and encryption if applicable and introduce the functionality that allows users to access their personal data, edit, and delete it. Since the key requirement is to “ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk (Art. 32, GDPR),” your task is to run a risk assessment and determine which measures can mitigate the threats.

6. Have proper documentation

Any company that uses software products and services must be able to prove its GDPR compliance during an official audit. Note that all undocumented measures are considered unimplemented. In this case, the task of a software development provider (which often serves as a data processor) is to supply all the requested documentation. According to the GDPR provisions, it’s necessary to provide purposes and location of data processing, information on data storage, identity, and contact details of the data controller, etc.

​Although regulatory standards for software solutions are high, careful planning, and regular assessment make them achievable. To run a self-check and understand whether your current practices are compliant, use the GDPR compliance checklist for software development below.
You can also download a PDF version of this checklist here to have this 15-Step GDPR Compliance Checklist for Software Development always close at hand.

How to Hire a GDPR Compliant Software Development Company?

Look for a software development provider with a proven record of GDPR compliant software and mobile application development. If the completed projects successfully run for many years with a high level of security, that’s a good sign.

Besides, you should read through the Privacy Policy of the prospective partner to understand whether it meets regulatory requirements. Most importantly, you need to communicate with the engineering team directly to assess their readiness to design GDPR compliant solutions and related expertise.

To ensure the General Data Protection Regulation compliance for our customers, at Leobit we:

  • Specifically research the areas of customer’s business/software application that could be potentially impacted by GDPR
  • Analyze what types of user data will be processed and how
  • Create software solutions with built-in security measures
  • Implement all the features necessary to collect explicit user consent, data deletion requests, and meet other applicable GDPR requirements
  • Enable our customers to prevent, detect, and control data breaches with security measures
  • Follow data regulation updates and changes to develop solutions that are always up-to-date and compliant
  • Minimize data collection, processing, and storage
  • Encrypt and pseudonymize collected user data when possible
  • Test every developed solution before launching it to validate its regulatory compliance

These and other security practices enable Leobit to fulfill projects that meet the highest regulatory standards. We take care of the technical side of regulatory compliance, providing our customers with strong and effective software solutions. Have any questions about GDPR in software development? Fill out our form for free consulting.

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