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How can we rethink data protection?

Data protection is more than just nice to have - at the latest since the introduction of the GDPR, it has become just as important as, for example, employment law. Yet for many, data protection is a tedious task. Are there therefore ways to approach the topic differently?

Data protection - a neglected topic?

Whether entrepreneur, employee, manager or private individual: we all live in an information age. This means that all information is available everywhere and at all times. It is precisely then that the protection of personal data should actually play a central role.

It should. Despite this, many companies - often including their employees - are reluctant to deal with the issue of data protection or take it lightly. Words such as the General Data Protection Regulation are too dry, the implementation of the guidelines seems too complex and time-consuming, too irrelevant for their own goals. Especially as the effort involved brings no immediately apparent benefit.

The problem is that neither management nor employees are often aware that these guidelines are being breached in their company. Inadequate data protection can not only lead to expensive penalties - it can also cost trust and security and, in worse cases, even be abused by third parties.

So there is no way around the issue of data protection. But are there ways to approach the issue differently? Is there perhaps a "simpler data protection"?

Why do we actually need data protection?

Digitalization has become an undeniable trend of our time. But what does "digitalization" actually mean? Ultimately, it is the conversion of information into digital values - data. The practical thing is that this data is much easier to distribute and copy than files or other information carriers. And that is also the problem: who knows who can see my data? The employees? This means that confidential information can easily reach unauthorized persons - and be used against the person who released the data, possibly unintentionally.

Data protection is therefore also synonymous with information protection: we must ensure that certain information does not reach third parties. The question is, of course:

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What is good data protection?

The safest way to protect data is certainly not to share it with anyone in the first place. However, this fundamentally contradicts any kind of communication, which is nothing more than the exchange of information. So should all employees go about their work in silence in future? But who would then tell them when they have to do what?

The more realistic solution is to set clear rules for every single person in the company regarding the handling of sensitive data. What data can they show to whom? If these rules are clearly formulated, no data should fall into the wrong hands - at least in theory.

However, even the theory has various weak points - for example, what is "sensitive data" and what is not? Who counts as an unauthorized person? Then there is the practical implementation: who monitors compliance with these rules? And do employees even know what is illegal and what is compliant?

For example, is it permitted to print out a duty roster in paper form and hang it up? After all, it contains personal data. And what about an Excel file that is sent online? What about chat groups in which employees discuss their shift schedules?

In smaller companies, these problems can perhaps still be solved through training and stricter monitoring - but in a company with 2,000 employees, constant training would result in immense costs. What's more, constant monitoring of employees is not only expensive, but also illegal and ultimately questionable. After all, who wants to have to constantly monitor their employees?

The best solution would be one that automatically ensures that everything runs according to the rules. Securely and without monitoring.

Digitized data protection - a possible solution?

As much as digitalization has made data protection necessary in the first place, it can also help to comply with it. In other words, it is also possible to digitize data protection. Or better - to automate it.

Software ensures that data protection regulations are directly complied with for certain processes in companies: The system effectively protects users from making mistakes or unintentionally violating rules.

Automated software processes can also prevent certain breaches from being committed in the first place. If communication - for example, when employees need to be informed about short-term changes in operational procedures - takes place automatically via a GDPR-compliant channel, there is no risk of a breach in the first place.

However, digitalization can also help to avoid risks in other areas - especially in duty scheduling - and ensure that the company and its employees are always "safe".

Automation not only enables companies to ensure that everything runs according to the rules - it also relieves their employees of work, meaning they have "one less thing to worry about" and can concentrate fully on their actual work - a win-win situation for everyone involved.