Europe's influence in US data protection law will soon prove whether businesses that hold personally identifiable information (PII) can meet the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), currently awaiting launch in the US after the EU-US Privacy Shield act was ratified Wednesday by the EU.
May 25, 2018 is the date when GDPR will come into force. The scope of the regulation is quite frankly staggering. It affects not just EU businesses conducting trade with US companies, but anyone and everyone resident in Europe.
GDPR applies to any individual, whether their PII includes their private, professional or public life. The PII can be anything from a name, a home address, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, right down to a computer's IP address.
And it will ask fundamental questions about data itself, essentially, what it is, how it is collected, where it goes, and it is stored.
Agreement between the EU and the Washington over just how those questions are answered could be a major stumbling block when it comes to enforcement, where definitions may be at odds between the two governments.
"Notification of breaches must be stringent, violation fines are expected to be stringent," Steve Schlarman, director of product marketing and GRC Strategist at security giant RSA, told Security Now. "It's a question of how law enforcement will look at the definition of what is an organization and how its data is used."
So, US firms could easily be forgiven for feeling somewhat panicked about the implications of GDPR. These include the difficulty of agreeable definitions concerning data breaches, how they are reported, and how the fine structure and tariffs for non-compliance should be calculated.
"How closely did companies conform to the regulations may form the basis of the fine. But there's a lot of interpretation here," said Schlarman. "The enforcement will have a structure, but there will be some learning."
Given attackers can sit unobserved within a network or system for months, this will inevitably pressure firms on their ability to detect, resolve -- and in the case of a breach -- qualify and quantify it using forensics.
Some observers accused SOINC Drive-In and Equifax -– two of the most recent data breaches –- of being slow to report and publicize their PII data exposures, potentially further endangering consumers financial and personal security. So an interpretation of "how quickly is good enough" looks like another basis for quibbles with the regulation.
Supporters of GDPR are positive about the regulation because is viewed as giving back control to citizens and residents over their personal data, and because it intends to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying regulations within the EU with those in the US.
That should make it easier for non-European companies to comply; however, this comes at the cost of the strict data protection compliance regime with financial penalties of up to 2% of worldwide company turnover.
For its part, RSA announced Wednesday it is upgrading its security products to keep step with the rapidly developing GDPR environment. Data governance and privacy program management systems can now be paired with RSA breach response systems to tackle issues more quickly. Identity and data access assurance has been improved to help firms keep step with continuous compliance capabilities.
RSA also point to a recent PWC survey that indicates that GDPR compliance is at the top of the data protection list for over half of US multinationals.
— Simon Marshall, Technology Journalist, special to Security Now