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9/1/2020
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Arti Lalwani
Arti Lalwani
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ISO 27701 Paves the Way for a Strategic Approach to Privacy

As the first certifiable international privacy management standard, ISO 27701 is a welcome addition to the existing set of common security frameworks.

Privacy has become a business imperative. May 25, 2020, marked the two-year anniversary of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enforcement, which has already wrought dozens of hefty fines, including €50 million for Google and €99 million for Marriott. Although these fines are less severe than the 4% of annual revenue that GDPR could levy, organizations should still be concerned since dozens of lesser-known companies have also been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars each.

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In the United States, enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) began on July 1, 2020. Time will tell how fiercely California will prosecute CCPA violations, but if GDPR is any indication, then the California attorney general will likely be looking to make an example out of any offending organizations. Case in point, a class action lawsuit has already been filed against Zoom.

Privacy, like security, has become a critical component for demonstrating trust, both to internal stakeholders and to external customers and partners.

There is a lot of complexity around privacy regulations. GDPR is such a full-time job that Article 37 may require a full-time data protection officer (DPO) to oversee compliance efforts.  A 2020 research report from FTI Consulting indicates that "97 percent of organizations will increase their spend on data privacy in the coming year" and "87 percent of respondents believed that steps toward compliance will mitigate regulatory scrutiny."

From ISMS to PIMS
As the precursor to ISO 27701, ISO 27001 is a well-known security standard responsible for certifying the implementation of Information Security Management Systems (ISMS). ISO 27701 introduces the criteria for certifying a Privacy Information Management System (PIMS). It may be more useful to think of PIMS as the evolution of ISMS, as ISO 27701 seeks to create one holistic system from the two.

ISO 27701 offers certification for data controllers (i.e., the data collector) and data processors, or a hybrid of the two. Data controllers must demonstrate their protection of privacy rights and post privacy notifications, among other requirements, while data processor requirements include limiting processing. Both are required to adhere to a variety of policies and procedures, such as risk analysis, confidentiality agreements, training, and oversight (i.e., the data protection officer).

A Strategic Approach to Compliance
The path to ISO 27701 is straightforward enough. First, an organization must determine if they are a data controller, a data processor, or both. If an organization has already implemented ISO 27001 there are no changes to existing controls, but there are additional privacy controls to address. If an organization is strategic in planning for ISO 27701, it can not only prepare for certification, it can also improve its business — for example, by streamlining new digital transformation initiatives.

The benefits of strategic compliance are realized by centralizing, standardizing, and consolidating audit processes. According to the Gartner "Market Guide for Organization Security Certification Services," "The control requirements and the sections of the security standards against which certifications and attestations are generated have significant overlap. If there is a need to obtain more than one certification or attestation, there is value in consolidating audit planning, audit data gathering, interviews and evidence collection efforts into a vendor selection exercise with multiple security certifications/attestations."

Implementing ISO 27701 already represents a strategic compliance initiative because it standardizes aspects of some privacy regulations. ISO provides order to the chaos of data privacy. Therefore, if an organization is already undertaking ISO 27701, it should consider where else it can achieve strategic compliance by consolidating other audits or establishing its organization's standards and practices, much in the spirit of these international organizations.

Ultimately, the goal of achieving a certifiable international privacy standard with ISO 27701 is to drive new business by demonstrating trust. Strategic compliance efforts can also help a business grow by unlocking operational efficiencies — saving time and money on audits. Both privacy management and strategic compliance can have a positive impact on an organization, not only in driving new business, but improving how these businesses work.

Between GDPR and CCPA, we have entered the age of privacy with ISO 27701 emerging as the gold medal for privacy standards.

Arti Lalwani is the ISO practice lead at A-LIGN, where she directs audits and certification. She is a certified ISO/IEC 27001:2013 Lead Auditor with extensive experience in ISO 27001. Before joining A-LIGN, Arti assisted other certification bodies with practice development ... View Full Bio
 

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