Why Hire a Data Protection Officer?

12 May 2021

It’s no secret that data has become the most valuable asset in the world. In fact, some sources claim it’s overtaken oil to be our most valuable commodity. Data provides endless possibilities for marketing, sales and knowledge of your customer base – it’s almost limitless. Therefore, it’s worth protecting. If you fall victim to a data breach, it could be detrimental to your businesses reputation; customers won’t trust you if private information is leaked, and it could have enormous consequences for them.

So, in a world where data is becoming more and more valuable by the day, is it worth hiring someone to safeguard this and ensure that your data is compliant with data protection regulations? Well according to LinkedIn’s Emerging Job Report it is, as the role came 2nd out of the 15 most in demand tech jobs in the UK last year.

In the scaleup space, many businesses rely largely on tech, which also means a heavy use of data. Therefore, these growing businesses can be more at risk from data breaches than anyone else; protection of customers, employees and other private information is a priority. We’re investigating the role of a data protection officer and whether your scaling business needs to hire one.

What is a Data Protection Officer?

data protection officer (DPO) is a security leadership role that has become a requirement by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for many businesses. They oversee a company’s data protection strategy to ensure they’re following GDPR requirements and other regulations. The role was introduced in 2018 to promote compliance with the new rules governing how personal data in the EU is handled. However, they’re still a pivotal hire to this day, ensuring customer, employee and other data is kept safe and protected across an organisation.

What does a Data Protection Officer do?

The primary responsibility of a data protection officer (DPO) is to ensure the organisation processes the personal data of staff, customers, providers, and any other individuals, which complies with the correct data protection rules.

They’re responsible for training and educating staff on managing and storing data, keeping an eye on any breaches, and alerting the relevant parties if they fail to comply. In addition, they must put protocols into place and find ways to improve existing systems, which means continually monitoring systems.

 It’s also their job to ensure customers, staff, and other individuals are aware of their data protection rights, obligations, and responsibilities, which means handling potential queries and complaints about handling data.

Data protection offices have to regularly carry out data security audits and record all data processing conducted by the business, which they must make public upon request.

What industries do Data Protection Officers work in?

As we’re using more and storing more data than ever, the short answer is almost every industry. While public bodies are legally obligated to appoint a data protection officer, they have a place in any business which requires handling large amounts of customer, employee or other valuable information.

However, here are some of the leading industries you can expect to find a data protection officer:

Healthcare – healthcare professionals have to manage vast amounts of patient data daily. In addition, they have access to private medical records and the personal data of millions of people; therefore, you can understand why a data protection officer is a vital hire in this industry to prevent data breaches and ensure this sensitive information is protected.

Finance – when it comes to finance, fintech or other businesses cannot afford for private financial information of their customers to be leaked. A data breach where finances are involved could have huge consequences as cybercriminals could access bank accounts and financial records, resulting in disastrous implications. Therefore, a financial business must comply with data protection laws and do all it can to protect this sensitive data.

Education – from schools to universities, data protection officers are vital to ensure student information is not leaked or accessed by the wrong people. But, again, this is a lot of personal information that could be risky in the wrong hands, and with schools, you have the issue of protecting young people.

Non-profit – non-profit organisations hold a lot of data from their sponsors and supporters. Again this ranges from personal information through to

E-commerce and retail – if people are buying online, then a business is handling large amounts of data. They not only learn about your interests but have bank details on record and home addresses of customers. Therefore, they must comply with GDPR and protect information. They must also ensure that customers agree to having their data stored, are happy to be contacted and more.

Is hiring a Data Protection Officer a legal requirement?

In the UK, you currently must appoint a DPO if:

  • You are a public body (except for courts acting in a judicial capacity);
  • Your core activities require large scale and regular monitoring of individuals, like online behaviour monitoring.
  • You process large amounts of special categories of data or data relating to criminal offences.

However, you can still appoint a data protection officer even if you’re not required to below, but this does mean they’ll have to follow the strict rules and regulations. For example, suppose you don’t have a designated data protection offer. In that case, you must still ensure you have the resources to stick to your obligations under GDPR which can become complex and consequences can be significant. For this reason, many businesses of a range of sizes see this as a vital role. It helps them to demonstrate accountability and show a willingness to comply.

Is a Data Protection Officer only for large businesses?

Small businesses with few employees that don’t manage vast amounts of data will have to adhere to simplified requirements under the GDPR. However, some scaling tech businesses base their entire business model on data, in which case it may be a sensible idea to ensure you’re complying with the law and remain by the book. Whether you need to hire a data protection officer or not relies hugely on the nature of business, the volume of data you collect and your legal obligations.

Some companies choose to appoint a data protection officer from within their own ranks, but in a scaling business, it isn’t easy to find someone who has the time to juggle such an essential job with their day to day role. So when time is tight, and you need your senior team for other commitments, it may be best to hire externally, like growing your business.

What qualities should you look for when hiring a Data Protection Officer?

When looking for a data protection officer, the most critical aspect is a working knowledge of data protection law and a willingness to keep up to date with any changes and updates. If possible, they should also have cybersecurity experience and demonstrate an understanding of complex IT infrastructure and the technology used by the business.

As they must manage data protection and compliance internally and report non-compliance to the proper authorities, you must look for someone both reliable and independent. They should have excellent management skills and communicate well with all staff to ensure compliance at all levels.

Talent Works specialise in finding top tech talent to help companies grow and innovate and comply with regulations and manage large amounts of data. Through direct sourcing, digital recruitment marketing and attraction strategies, and building employer brands that cut through the noise and resonate with the tech market. To find out how we could help your business find and connect with leading Data Protection Officers to ensure compliance and secure your customer data, contact us.

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