Data Privacy Automation: Pros, Cons, and Pitfalls of Streamlining Compliance

Managing the complex maze of data privacy regulations can often be overwhelming. To ease the burden, many organizations turn towards software and data privacy automation tools, such as those designed to manage data subject rights requests or data inventory, to streamline the compliance process and optimally allocate resources. These automation tools are often used in conjunction with privacy enhancing technologies in order to enhance an organization’s privacy program and bolster data subject rights. Unfortunately, automation software is not without its risks. Overreliance, misuse, or an inappropriate selection of data privacy automation tools could inadvertently escalate regulatory risks, inflate costs, and make processes even more complex.

Human Input: The Key to Effective Data Privacy Automation

Data privacy automation tools can facilitate compliance with privacy laws, assisting with tasks such as creating data inventories, managing data subject requests, inspecting websites’ privacy compliance, or gathering the information for a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA). However, these are not plug-and-play solutions; they require significant human input and skillful implementation.

Setting up, customizing, and configuring privacy automation tools is a complex process that should not be underestimated. It demands both time and a dedicated team for a successful rollout and the costs can escalate quickly. Even after a successful implementation, automation tools require continuous management and updating.

It’s important to underscore that the success of automation tools depends on the quality and accuracy of human input. Poor quality or incorrect information can lead to deficient or non-compliant output.

Choosing the Right Data Privacy Automation Tool

Privacy automation tools are often designed based on developers’ understanding of laws and are typically aimed at specific legal systems or jurisdictions. Using the wrong tool can risk a breach of data privacy laws.

Some tools and software suites are built for general operational automation, and are not developed specifically for data privacy compliance. Even if they are marketed as a complete solution, these tools may only help with some components of compliance. 

The field of data protection is constantly evolving. Even though these tools undergo routine updates, it is not always possible for them to perfectly keep up with the newest requirements of all applicable laws at all times. 

Relying solely on the tool provider’s interpretation of the law or assuming that an automated tool alone will always keep your operations compliant can often result in misunderstandings and deviations from compliance in your activities.

Avoid Solely Relying on Automation for Legal Advice

Privacy automation software is often developed in response to legal requirements and may contain legal information, but one should not rely on it for legal guidance. While privacy automation systems have their benefits, they should be part of a broader compliance program overseen by internal team members and privacy professionals. Automation software cannot replace guidance provided by experienced data privacy experts.

Automation software can streamline processes and offer insights, but it cannot replace the guidance and expertise of experienced data privacy experts. Legal matters, particularly those pertaining to privacy and data protection, are intricate and nuanced. Human judgment and interpretation are necessary to ensure a thorough understanding and appropriate application of the law.

To achieve a well-rounded approach to data privacy compliance, organizations should involve knowledgeable internal team members as well as external privacy professionals who specialize in legal compliance. These external advisors often bring valuable perspectives and insights gained from exposure to a wide range of situations and laws. Their broad experience enables them to tackle various types of challenges and provides organizations with a comprehensive understanding of legal requirements.

Automation Can Lead to Data Breaches

The success of privacy automation tools depends on human configuration. Incorrect setup or customization can lead to significant privacy issues. For example, incorrect user rights management can result in unauthorized access and data breaches,  especially concerning data submitted by users via data subject rights requests. Another example is incorrect data classification parameters and retention periods, which may lead to inappropriate data management. Reliance on automation can also create cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Consequently, tools intended to enable privacy compliance may inadvertently cause legal contraventions.

Heavy reliance on privacy automation tools can create a false sense of security. Organizations may mistakenly believe that these tools guarantee full data privacy compliance when, in reality, they only facilitate data privacy management. While valuable, these tools by themselves cannot ensure that all data privacy requirements are met. For example, data privacy automation is usually aimed at electronic records, but data privacy laws apply to the processing of paper-based records too. Accordingly, sole reliance on automation tools could create a gap in an organization’s compliance program.

The Importance of Expert Involvement in Data Privacy

Human expertise is indispensable in any data privacy management program. Data privacy automation must be supervised by experienced individuals well-versed in data protection laws and capable of identifying risks, solving problems strategically, inspiring the organization to achieve the required levels of compliance, and managing any arising complexities. Only experts can ensure that tools are correctly set up and deployed, adhering to legal requirements. Collaboration with external privacy advisors, such as the team at VeraSafe, can offer expert and independent advice to help organizations navigate the ever-evolving landscape of data protection laws.

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Related topics: Compliance Tools and Advice

Contact VeraSafe to discuss your data security management and privacy program today.