In a world where data security and privacy are a priority, freelancers must navigate the complexities of protection regulations for their clients’ personal information. One of the structures in place to enforce this is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which has become a crucial framework for safeguarding individuals’ personal information in the European Union.
In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of GDPR compliance for freelancers. Whether you’re a writer, designer, developer, or any other independent professional, understanding GDPR is essential to maintaining trust with your clients, avoiding hefty fines, and demonstrating your commitment to data privacy.
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What is GDPR?
The GDPR is a set of regulations that have been put in place to protect the citizens of the European Union from data theft and unlawful use of personal information. These regulations aim to protect eight basic rights of individuals in relation to their personal data:
- The Right to Information
- The Right of Access
- The Right to Rectification
- The Right to Erasure
- The Right to Restriction of Processing
- The Right to Data Portability
- The Right to Object
- The Right to Avoid Automated Decision-Making
Any business operating within the EU, collecting data from European website visitors, or providing products or services to consumers within the EU, are obligated to comply with the GDPR, or risk facing substantial fines.
Why Should Freelancers Care About GDPR?
Any business, regardless of its size and industry, must comply with the GDPR in order to operate or supply to countries within the European Union. There are serious consequences for companies that fail to comply; they will be liable to pay fines of up to 4% of their annual global revenue or 20 million Euros, whichever amount is greater. Disciplinary action is also taken against non-compliant businesses.
Data security in and of itself is a crucial component of running a business, with reports showing that companies who invest in data security can expect to see a 152% return on investment for their efforts. In addition to bringing in a significant ROI, data security goes a long way in showing your clients that you are serious about their data privacy.
GDPR compliance fosters trust and transparency with your clients. By implementing GDPR principles, such as obtaining explicit consent, providing clear privacy policies, and ensuring data security, you demonstrate your commitment to protecting your clients’ personal information. This can enhance your professional image and differentiate you from competitors who may not prioritize their data privacy.
The Key Elements of GDPR
There are seven major principles that the GDPR sets out to enforce. These are all applicable to freelance businesses, with no exceptions. The principles include:
1️⃣ Lawfulness, Fairness, & Transparency
All personal information collected should be processed in a lawful, fair, and transparent manner in relation to all individuals, with no exceptions.
2️⃣ Purpose Limitation
Data should be collected for specific, explicit, and legitimate reasons. Once collected, this data shall not further be processed in a manner that contradicts these reasons.
3️⃣ Data Minimization
The data must be relevant, adequate, and limited to what is required to achieve the goals for which it is collected.
Any data that is collected should be accurate and regularly updated when necessary and possible.
5️⃣ Storage Limitation
Personal data should not be kept for any longer than is absolutely necessary for the purposes for which the information has been processed. The only exceptions are when the data is used in ways that will benefit the public (for example, for scientific, historical or statistical purposes).
6️⃣ Integrity & Confidentiality
The information should be processed in a way that ensures the appropriate security and confidentiality of the individual’s personal data.
The person or company that collects the data shall be responsible for and compliant with the principles of the GDPR at all times.
Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), businesses and other entities handling personal data are required to have a lawful basis for processing this information. The GDPR outlines six lawful bases for processing, and at least one of these must apply for any processing activity. The lawful bases are as follows:
- Consent: The individual, or ‘data subject’, has given clear, explicit, and informed consent for their personal data to be processed for a specific and explicit purpose. Consent must be freely given, and individuals have the right to withdraw consent at any time.
- Contractual Necessity: Processing must be necessary for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is a party, or to take steps at the data subject’s request before entering into a contract.
- Legal Obligation: Processing is necessary to comply with a legal obligation to which the data controller is subject.
- Vital Interests: Processing is necessary to protect the vital interests of the data subject or any other person. This applies in cases where processing is required to protect someone’s life or physical integrity.
- Legitimate Interests: Processing is necessary for a legitimate interest(s) pursued by the data controller or a third party, except where such interests are overridden by the interests, rights, or freedoms of the data subject.
- Public Task: Processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the data controller.
Freelancers must consider the above bases before collecting or processing any personal data from their clients, and ensure that their reasoning complies with these guidelines. Freelancers must also put strategies in place to protect their clients’ information, as data breaches can result in fines, legal action, a damaged reputation, and distrust from clients. In fact, 62% of consumers say that they would blame the company for lost or stolen data in the event of a breach, instead of the hacker.
Steps for GDPR Compliance as a Freelancer
Step 1️⃣: Understand the Scope
In order to be fully compliant, freelancers must study and understand the scope of the GDPR. Familiarize yourself with the GDPR’s requirements, and determine how it applies to your business.
Step 2️⃣: Identify & Document Data
Take stock of the personal data that you collect, process, and store. This includes your clients’ contact details, email addresses, project files, or any other information that can directly or indirectly identify individuals. Document what data you collect, why you collect it, and how you use it. You make this process easier by using secure digital form tools such as Jotform to create, store, and easily access the data.
Step 3️⃣: Determine Lawful Basis
Establish a lawful basis for processing the personal data that you collect. Consider whether you require consent, if processing is necessary for fulfilling a contract, or if you have a legitimate interest in processing the data. Document your chosen lawful basis for each processing activity.
Step 4️⃣: Obtain Explicit Consent
If you rely on consent as your lawful basis for processing the personal information, ensure that you obtain explicit and informed consent from the relevant individuals. Clearly explain the purposes for which you are collecting their data, how you will use it, and provide an option to withdraw consent at any time.
Step 5️⃣: Implement Privacy Notices
Create and display privacy notices on your website or in your client contracts or proposals. Privacy notices should explicitly outline the types of personal data you plan to collect, the purposes for processing, lawful basis, data retention periods, and a summary of the individuals’ rights regarding their data.
Step 6️⃣: Implement Data Security Measures
Implement appropriate security measures to protect client data from unauthorized access, loss, or breaches. Use strong passwords, encryption, secure data storage, and regularly update your software and systems. Be cautious when sharing data with third parties and ensure they have adequate data protection measures in place.
Step 7️⃣: Create a Data Breach Response Plan
Develop a data breach response plan that outlines the steps to take in case of a data breach. This includes assessing the risk, containing the breach, notifying the affected individuals and relevant authorities, and taking measures to prevent similar incidents in the future. It is essential to report any data breaches within 72 hours of becoming aware of the issue in order to avoid disciplinary action or penalties.
Step 8️⃣: Ongoing Compliance
Regularly review and update your privacy practices to ensure continued compliance with GDPR. Stay informed about any changes or updates to data protection regulations, and adapt your processes accordingly.
It is crucial that freelancers comply with GDPR guidelines at all times, in order to avoid penalties or legal action. The consequences of non-compliance are harsh, with the minimum fine for serious violations being €20 million. In addition to the hefty fine, freelancers also risk a damaged reputation, loss of clients, and disciplinary action.
By following the guidelines outlined in this article, freelancers should have all of the necessary information to comply with GDPR and protect their clients’ data. As long as you have a lawful basis for processing the information, follow the principles of the regulations, and take action to protect the data from unauthorized parties, you should be able to remain compliant with the General Data Protection Regulations at all times.