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GDPR Data Mapping: What It Is and How to Comply?



The European data privacy law GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) allows the data subjects to exercise their rights to keep data private and confidential. This way, they have more control over what kind of data an organization holds on them, where it is sent, and how it is processed.

That’s when data mapping will be valuable to you, as you will be able to lay the foundation of GDPR compliance. Although data mapping is not a requirement by GDPR, it will facilitate you in indirectly adhering to its articles (laws). As a starting point, creating a data map template for your business is a great idea. However, you need to fulfill the process and implement it into your business processes as a whole.

If you want to know about data mapping in detail and how it helps you comply with GDPR, keep reading this article!

What is Data Mapping?

Data mapping is the process of extracting data fields from one or multiple sources and then matching them to their targets. It gives data meaning and makes it helpful for decision-makers of the company.

In other words, you classify, protect and manage the data systematically. This way, you know exactly where the data moves in your system, what kind of data you retrieve, and where you send it.

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How Does Data Mapping Help Comply with GDPR?

As mentioned earlier, data mapping itself is not a requirement. However, data mapping can significantly facilitate you in staying in compliance with GDPR, so you don’t have to face heavy penalties or fines.

Data mapping helps in the following ways:

1. Maintains a Record of Data Processing Activities

Do you know that collecting and storing personal information of data subjects without any purpose is illegal under GDPR? Even article 30 of the GDPR needs you to maintain a record of the data processing activities of your business.

Therefore, data mapping helps you gather and maintain a list of all the data processing activities to ensure you have valid reasons for collecting personal information such as cross-border transfers, legal basis, and consent status.

2. Fulfills the Data Subject’s Legal Rights

Under GDPR, data subjects have the right to know how their personal information is collected, stored, and processed. To exercise this right, they can access data and even ask you to rectify/delete it on request.

In order to process their request within the time limit, it’s essential for organizations to have data well-organized, so they can execute all the requests of data subjects timely and comply with GDPR.

3. Data Protection Impact Assessments

Under article 35 of the GDPR, an organization is required to assess the data protection impact. In other words, it’s your responsibility to evaluate whether the data you are processing will cause a high risk to data subjects.

Of course, in order to determine this, you need to sort and organize all the data through data mapping. You will be able to analyze how data is transferred from you to third parties, how it is stored, and how you collect it, so you can allocate risk to specific data sets in a cinch. You also need to consider the purpose, nature, and scope of processing data.

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For example, the data subject’s name may require you to categorize it as “low-risk”, whereas their medical records may be “high-risk”.

4. Manages Data Breaches

Article 33 of the GDPR requires companies to notify the supervisory authority about a data breach that carries the risk of impacting the rights of the data subjects within 72 hours after knowing about the incident. The data subjects must also be informed about the data breach if the risk is high in nature as soon as possible.

Therefore, data mapping helps you monitor the risk levels of different data sets. If the risk is high-level, the company can inform the data subjects without delay to adhere to the GDPR.

How Should Data Mapping Be Done?

Although data mapping can be done manually, it is not recommended. For instance, if you use spreadsheets to map data, you won’t always be able to categorize risk and record a new customer’s data. It can lead to poor data management, and you may breach the GDPR.

Therefore, investing in robust data mapping software is always recommended. This way, you will always be able to store, trace, and maintain data the right way. When looking for a data mapping tool, you should generally look for these factors:

  • It should be easy to generate reports.
  • It should display metadata for every element, such as data type, format, location, access list, etc.
  • It should automatically create data maps through the metadata.
  • It should allow for consent tracking and highlight data collected or processed without consent.
  • It should help you keep your data up-to-date with the help of notifications and automation.
  • It should let all the subject matter experts work together on a unified platform.
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