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How to comply with GDPR data retention requirements

Does your company collect personal data from European Union citizens? If so, you’re subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its stringent requirements, including those for data retention. Noncompliance can result in severe consequences, such as fines, compromised data and more fines, so you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to avoid that. When it comes to fulfilling retention requirements, data classification is that “everything.” In this article, we’ll discuss what GDPR data retention requirements are and how a data classification tool can help ensure your company remains compliant.

GDPR data retention requirements

The GDPR’s definition of personal data is quite broad. It protects the usual — names and addresses — as well as newer identifiers carved out by the digital era, like IP addresses, genetic information and biometric data. The GDPR doesn’t put a specific limit on how long this data can be kept — companies can determine their own time frames — but it does require those time frames to be outlined and justified prior to the data being collected. The GDPR considers old, unusable data to be a security risk, so keeping it around after its retention window has passed is considered a noncompliance violation. Companies fulfill this portion of GDPR retention requirements by creating and implementing a data retention policy.

What is a data retention policy?

A company’s data retention policy outlines how long sensitive data can be retained and how it will be disposed of when it’s no longer of use. It also documents the purpose for collecting data and how that data will be processed and used for business. Because companies often collect sensitive data protected by multiple privacy regulations, their data retention policies are an amalgamation of retention requirements that can be tricky to keep up with.

Enforcing data retention policies with data classification

The sheer volume of personal data that companies possess makes it impossible to accurately manage using manual processes, and this lack of accuracy can create noncompliance violations. On top of that, it’s tedious and time-consuming, spreading IT and data security teams even thinner than they already are. The result: complete avoidance of data classification.

Still, none of these classification cons outweigh the repercussions of noncompliance. Their severity actually makes a strong case for automated data classification tools, and here’s why. An automated data classification software categorizes sensitive data as it’s identified in your environment based on the compliance regulations it’s subject to, its level of sensitivity and other custom criteria, such as your company’s data retention policy. From here, data can be securely processed and used by authorized individuals within your organization, and eventually, disposed of in accordance with your retention policy.

Automation eliminates the inaccuracies and potential risks from human error and streamlines those dreaded cumbersome tasks that often prevent companies from implementing classification in the first place. There’s still a manual component to data monitoring involved, but automated classification allows for proactive responses to unusual activity that minimize damage. For example, when unexpected changes are made to a piece of data that defy a company’s data retention policy and jeopardizes its GDPR compliance, IT and security teams are quickly notified and able to enact a timely response.

In addition to retention requirements, automated data classification enables companies to uphold other components of GDPR compliance, like fulfilling data subject requests, which allow individuals to obtain copies of their data, make changes to it and limit how a company processes it, as well as honoring the right to be forgotten, which allows individuals to request that an organization delete their personal data.

The bottom line: automated data classification software is a worthwhile investment for your company’s security and compliance efforts.

Fulfill GDPR data retention requirements with Spirion

Spirion’s automated and persistent data classification capabilities help enterprises enforce data retention policies and comply with the stringent, ever-evolving regulations governing their data. While classification is essential to meeting data retention requirements, it needs to be executed accurately to be effective. Manual processes and tools that lack sophisticated functionality can’t deliver, leading to noncompliance and costly penalties. But Spirion does. Contact us today to learn how we can provide ongoing value and protection to your company through privacy-grade classification software.