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data protection officer (DPO)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A data protection officer (DPO) is an enterprise security position tasked with ensuring that data management and handling are compliant with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

A DPO is tasked with enforcing the regulations of the GDPR and is also responsible for the general strategy for the protection of data. In cases where a data subject must be contacted by law, a DPO would make the contact.

The GDPR necessitates a DPO for the oversight of any company handling large amounts of EU citizens' private data. The GDPR does not mandate any specific certifications for DPOs but does require that they are experts in data protection practice and law. DPOs are required to be experts in data processing and knowledgeable about the protection required for the type of data handled. A DPO can come from a company’s existing staff, and a single officer may work for a company’s related institutions as well.

The responsibilities of a DPO include:

  • Training management and staff (including possible outsourced data entry staff) on data protection regulation requirements.
  • Assessing compliance requirements adherence and addressing infractions.
  • Serving as a contact to GDPR supervisors.
  • Tracking performance and advising on likely results of data protection measures.
  • Maintaining records of data protection efforts and the reasons they were implemented, in case of public request.
  • Informing data subjects about how their data is being used, protection measures safeguarding their data and their right to be forgotten.

Although the United Kingdom is set to leave the EU in March 2019, GDPR requirements will have to be followed when dealing with EU citizens' data. Companies will be required hire a DPO before the GDPR is effective in May 2018. Hiring sooner is advisable to get the most qualified individuals, as demand will increase as the deadline looms nearer.

This was last updated in October 2017

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