While this wave of digital transformation has created unprecedented opportunities, it has also brought about new challenges. One of the biggest such challenges is the need for corporations, governments and other organizations to safeguard large amounts of people’s personal information. With compliance requirements becoming increasingly stringent, the need to optimize data privacy operations within all organizations is coming into sharp focus. This is a complex issue: Organizations commonly face difficulty constructing privacy operations that don’t suck up inordinate amounts of resources and effort. This is because most organizations still largely rely on manual processes in their privacy programs. Though there are issues with the current state of most organizations’ privacy practices, it is possible to address them through embracing the latest technology and data protection strategies.

The Main Issues with Manual Privacy Operations

An IAPP Governance Report from 2019 found that well over half the professionals working in privacy state that manual methods involving spreadsheets, emails and ad-hoc, in-person communication are still the most prominent methods of conducting data inventory and mapping. This creates many issues for organizations. For example, relying on as-necessary email communications to locate and assess data for its privacy qualities is especially fraught. This indicates that privacy managers are themselves unfamiliar with the locations of data and its characteristics, such as whether or not it contains sensitive information. Inefficiency and inaccuracies spring from this fact. Privacy managers will often kick off an email or support ticket thread in pursuit of the responsible data owner or specific information about the location and qualities of data. This can present as a wild goose chase that wastes valuable time and resources to finding the sought-after information or addressing inaccuracies in the chain of communications. But under the EU’s GDPR, organizations have 30 days to respond to potential privacy breaches. Under Australia’s OAIC Mandatory Notifiable Data Breaches scheme, any breach that ‘is likely to result in serious harm to an affected individual’ is reportable, and organizations must report such a breach within just 72 hours of detection.

Similarly, the use of spreadsheets to monitor data privacy processes and metrics is manual, relying on periodic non-automatic updating. This means that privacy isn’t being monitored in realtime and only a static view of the state of compliance is possible. These manual processes are prone to errors that impact the soundness of decisions and the accuracy of reporting. Risks can go undetected, incorrectly assessed or addressed far too late.

How to Move Beyond Manual Privacy Ops

Getting away from overreliance on manual processes within data privacy operations requires two things: The right technology and the right decentralized process structures.

Alex Solutions provides the technological platform that underpins data privacy in some of the world’s largest companies in the most stringently regulated industries. Alex has the most comprehensive and configurable sensitivity connectors which can automate data location and sensitivity scanning. Our connectors automatically scan your entire application and data systems, detecting sensitive data and immediately identifying its location, access controls and usage history. Out of the box, Alex can detect sensitive data including but not limited to Personal Identification Information, Personal Health Information and Personal Credit Information. Such information is located among both structured and unstructured data technologies, eliminating great amounts of the manual labour involved in data privacy processing.

But this is not merely a static central store of information – it can be automatically updated to reflect realtime changes in the system. Usage and permissions heatmaps can be configured in constantly refreshed dashboards, allowing rapid identification of data and systems at risk of exposure. But this information won’t be the domain of just a few experts. In fact, decentralized and highly structured guided data privacy and security politics can be configured and stored within the Alex Intelligent Business Glossary. From here, teams can rapidly take remedial action by configuring access controls, revising and enacting politics and actively prevent privacy breaches. With configurable automated workflows available in-platform, Alex can facilitate the decentralization of privacy remediation and management from a few experts to wider usership or teams.

Alex’s Automated Data Lineage draws from this unified view of all data and its sensitivity to reveal the entire lifecycle of data within the organization, including how it transforms. This detailed map, visualised in simple, beautiful views, is perfect for attesting to compliance. One of the world’s largest companies is leveraging our Lineage to report their entire dataflow – including all processing – to the regulatory authorities. 

All of this makes Alex the perfect foundation on which to build your automated data privacy operations. If you want a free, personalized demonstration of how Alex can take you beyond manual privacy processes, request a demo with our friendly, expert team below!

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