Privacy by Design – the key to protecting user data

The balance between innovative technology and data privacy has become increasingly difficult to manage – especially as the software we use on a daily basis is getting smarter. The more personal data our applications use, the more concerned we become about our data privacy. So how can we continue to invest in smart software applications that make life easier, without compromising on data privacy? Well, we can find a large part of the answer in the concept of ‘privacy by design’.

The Personalised Experience

Personalised services and products have enhanced our lives in many ways. We enjoy more tailored user experiences, we connect better with the outside world, and we even trust our technology to help us remember – and predict – important life events. However, as service providers, we must ensure that we don’t gamble with user privacy in order to deliver the benefits of these tailored solutions.

Data Privacy by Design

If your customers trust your brand or your product, they will generally trust in your ability to safely manage the data they give you. But when it comes to delivering on that trust, data privacy mustn’t be an afterthought. It needs to be built into every stage of your product development. This is why Privacy by Design has become such an important factor.
Privacy by Design is built on a framework of 7 principles, issued by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario in 1995 and revised in 2011. These principles are the key elements of designing solutions using data privacy best practice.

1. Be Proactive

Data privacy should always be preventative rather than reactive or remedial. This means that you plan and prepare for privacy invasion before it happens. Rather than addressing situations as they appear – or when they have already taken place – Privacy by Design uses a process for risk analysis and mitigation to prevent the system from being exposed to risk in the first place.

2. Treat Data Privacy as the Default

Data privacy should never rely on the user. Privacy by Design strives to build maximum privacy into the basic functionality of the system, which means that there is automatic protection in place at all times. This should never require the individual taking any specific action to protect themselves – it must be provided by default.

3. Embed Privacy into Design

Privacy must not be treated as a nice-to-have or an add-on. It should be embedded into the very design and structure of its processes. This allows privacy to become an integrated feature, as critical as any other software design element. Privacy should also be achieved without reducing or lowering the level of functionality offered.

4. Deliver Full Functionality

Privacy by Design strives to achieve a solution that not only delivers privacy protection, but does so while still delivering excellent user experience and benefit. In other words, the solution should deliver full value to the user without compromising on their privacy. This approach encourages the creation of solutions that don’t simply exclude features where it may be difficult to achieve data privacy. Instead, it puts pressure on developers to find solutions that deliver the same or better value while protecting the user’s privacy.

5. Deliver Full Lifecycle Protection

By incorporating data privacy into every stage of the development of a solution, you will be able to ensure that the system is designed to securely collect, use, retain and destroy user data in alignment with data protection regulations. This creates the foundation for safe end-to-end handling of user information without having to weld together various data management processes.

6. Keep it Transparent

Visibility is a key element of Privacy by Design. The business must be confident that they maintain the right level of privacy, and they can get that assurance by using transparent checkpoints and verification throughout the development journey. This allows everyone to trust that the end result will safely manage any personal information.

7. Focus on the user

At every single level, the business must prioritise the needs of the user and a respect for their privacy. After all, this is what will determine whether you can successfully market and manage the solution. With a backbone of best practice across the entire development process, you and your customers can be confident that privacy is securely built into the very structure of the system.

Best Practice is Best

Data privacy best practice should sit at the very heart of every development project. As we add more customised functionality that relies on user data, we must be increasingly aware of not just regulatory requirements but also real, tangible risk to the user in case of a data breach. However, by incorporating these fundamental building blocks to our development projects, we can help users trust in how applications and websites use their information.