Data Security & IP 9 min

How to manage GDPR compliance for global teams

Written by Tomás Pinho
May 23, 2024


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Whether you’re a global business expanding across borders or a fledgling start-up considering hiring contractors abroad, it’s essential to make sure you comply with GDPR rules.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a law that came into effect in 2018. It sets requirements for the collection and processing of personal data of individuals within the European Union (EU). After the GDPR became applicable, companies must take precautions over how they use, store, and protect employee data. 

Global businesses must understand and comply with GDPR where required, as it can help them build trust with their customers and clients, protect themselves from personal data breaches and other security incidents, and comply with data protection laws around the world. Failing to comply with GDPR regulations can lead to heavy fines and legal risks, which can significantly impact your business.

In this article, we will discuss what GDPR is, why it is important for global businesses, and how companies can ensure they are GDPR-compliant. We also discuss how you can use a global HR platform like Remote to ensure GDPR compliance for global businesses. 

What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a legal framework that governs the collection, processing, and storage of personal data of individuals within the European Union (EU). 

Applicable from 2018, GDPR aims to protect the privacy rights of individuals (data subjects) and grant them more control over their personal data.

GDPR has introduced strict rules and regulations on data collection, storage, processing, and transfer, ensuring that personal data is handled securely and ethically.

Key points of GDPR include:

  • Transparency. Individuals must be clearly informed about the collection and use of their personal data.

  • Consent. Individuals must consent to the processing of their personal data for specific purposes.

  • Right to access. Individuals have the right to access their personal data and request corrections or deletions.

  • Data security. Organizations must implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect personal data from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure.

  • Personal data breach notification. Organizations have certain obligations to notify individuals and relevant authorities in case of a personal data breach.

GDPR compliance is not just a legal requirement but also a crucial step toward building trust with customers. By demonstrating a commitment to data protection, organizations can enhance their reputation, mitigate the risk of data breaches, and foster a culture of privacy awareness.

Why is GDPR important for global businesses?

The GDPR mandates that businesses safeguard the personal data of individuals. Non-compliance can lead to substantial fines. There are several key reasons why GDPR is critical for global businesses.

Enhances individual privacy

Personal data is increasingly susceptible to unauthorized collection, usage, and sharing. GDPR empowers individuals by giving them greater control over their personal data and demands greater transparency from businesses about how their data is utilized.

Builds customer trust

When customers are confident that their personal data is secure, they are more likely to engage with a business. GDPR can help companies build this trust,‌ boosting customer loyalty, sales, and profits.

Safeguards against data breaches

GDPR requires businesses to implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to protect personal data. This proactive approach helps mitigate the risk of personal data breaches and other security incidents, which can save businesses money and safeguard their reputation.

Creates a level playing field

Historically, businesses in countries with lax data protection laws enjoyed a competitive edge over those in jurisdictions with stringent regulations. GDPR standardizes data protection rules across the board, ensuring fair competition regardless of a business's location.

link to [Webinar Recording] IP protection and data security for distributed teams

[Webinar Recording] IP protection and data security for distributed teams

If you have questions about IP and data protection abroad, we are here to help. In this in-depth webinar, three of Remote’s top global employment experts come together to share their tips and strategies on how to keep your company protected.

Does GDPR apply to contractors or freelancers?

Yes. If you are a contractor or freelancer who provides services to a company that is based in the EU, or if you process the personal data of EU residents in the course of your work, you are subject to the GDPR. Freelancers need to be informed about the data protection policies of businesses they work with, especially because their access to data may be temporary or occasional.

Companies that hire freelancers must treat the collection and storage of their data with the same level of seriousness as they do for their employee data. If employee or contractor data is not handled properly within an HR system, it leaves companies at risk of personal data breaches and security threats.

Here are some steps that companies can take to protect individuals’ data that they process. 

  • Having a legal basis for processing personal data, such as consent from the individual or a contract or agreement with the individual.

  • Protect personal data from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. These measures may include using strong passwords, encrypting data, and restricting access to data.

  • Demonstrate compliance. You must be able to demonstrate that you are complying with the GDPR. This may include keeping records of your processing activities, conducting data protection impact assessments, and responding to data subject requests.

What happens if my organization is not GDPR compliant?

Failure to comply with the GDPR can result in severe consequences for your organization. One of the most significant risks is the potential for substantial fines. 

The GDPR allows for fines of up to €20 million or 4% of your organization's annual global turnover, whichever is higher. These fines can have a devastating impact on your business, ‌ leading to financial instability or even bankruptcy. 

In recent years, huge fines have been levied on global companies for GDPR violations. In 2023, Irish regulators issued a historic fine of 1.2 billion Euros to Meta for breaking EU data privacy rules. 

In addition to financial penalties, non-compliance with the GDPR can also result in orders to stop processing personal data. This can severely disrupt your business operations, as you may no longer be able to collect, store, or use personal data, which is essential for many organizations. This can lead to a loss of productivity, missed opportunities, and ultimately, a decline in revenue.

Furthermore, non-compliance with the GDPR can damage your organization's reputation, especially now that there’s increasing awareness about how personal data can be misused. News of a GDPR violation can quickly spread, leading to a loss of trust among your customers, clients, and partners. This can have a long-term impact on your business, making it difficult to attract new customers and retain existing ones.

By taking the necessary steps to comply with the GDPR, you can protect your organization from legal risks and ensure that you are operating lawfully and ethically. 

Remember, GDPR compliance is not just a legal obligation; it’s also a good business practice that can help you build trust, protect your reputation, and ultimately drive success.

How can companies ensure they are GDPR compliant? 

This section provides a checklist of GDPR compliance measures that businesses can implement to ensure they comply with the law. The measures include:

  • Implementing appropriate technical and organizational steps to protect personal data. This includes measures such as encrypting data, using strong passwords, and implementing access control.

  • Appointing a data protection officer (DPO). The DPO is responsible for overseeing the organization's compliance with the GDPR.

  • Conducting a data protection impact assessment (DPIA). A DPIA is required for any processing of personal data that is likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals.

  • Obtaining consent from individuals before processing their data. Consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.

  • Establishing procedures for responding to data breaches and other security incidents. These procedures should include steps for notifying affected individuals and the relevant authorities, and for containing and mitigating the damage caused by the breach.

By implementing these measures, businesses can help to ensure that they are compliant with the GDPR and protect the personal data of their customers and clients.

How does Remote ensure GDPR compliance for global businesses?

The data privacy landscape is still evolving, and Remote can help businesses keep up with the changes.

Remote empowers organizations to navigate the complexities of data protection and safeguard the privacy rights of individuals by using the measures below. 

Enables clients to stay compliant

Remote allows companies using HRIS, Contractor management, and Global payroll services to inform their employees and contractors registered on the Remote platform about the personal data processed. 

By technically enabling the clients to use Remote privacy notice templates or upload their own privacy notice, the companies and their employees/contractors are empowered by Remote to remain compliant with the relevant data protection laws and respect individual privacy rights.

Training program for internal employees

At the heart of Remote's GDPR compliance strategy lies a comprehensive data protection training framework for internal employees. 

Recognizing that internal employees are the first line of defense in data protection, Remote equips its workforce with the knowledge and skills necessary to handle personal data responsibly. 

Regular training sessions delve into GDPR requirements, data protection principles, data subject rights, and robust security measures. This ongoing commitment to education ensures that employees remain well-versed in the latest data protection developments, enabling them to make informed decisions in their daily tasks.

Data security 

Complementing its robust training program is Remote's state-of-the-art data security infrastructure. Employing cutting-edge technical measures, Remote safeguards personal data from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure.

 Encryption technologies, access control, and firewalls form a formidable defense against potential security incidents. Moreover, Remote's proactive approach includes conducting regular security audits and vulnerability assessments to identify and swiftly address any potential weaknesses in its security posture. Remote holds relevant security certificates such as ISO 27001 and SOC 2 Type 2 which demonstrates our commitment to information security.

Data location

Remote stores its data, including personal data in Ireland, which is another crucial safeguard regarding the requirements of GDPR. This is an important measure that allows data subjects to feel safe and protected, knowing that their personal data will not be exposed to intrusive and privacy-unfriendly national laws.

Privacy by design and by default

Remote is developing its products and services devoted to data protection from the earliest stages of the design and striving to process it appropriately and in compliance with the applicable data protection regulations. 

In terms of GDPR, within the development lifecycle, we are acting upon the main GDPR principles regarding lawfulness, fairness, transparency, purpose limitation, data minimization, integrity, and confidentiality.

By default, Remote ensures that the personal data of individuals is processed with the highest protection so that by default, personal data is secured and in compliance with the GDPR requirements and principles. 

link to How Remote protects sensitive employee and employer data

How Remote protects sensitive employee and employer data

How does Remote keep your company's data — and your employees' data — safe all over the world? Read this article to learn more!

Data protection officer in charge of GDPR compliance

Recognizing the importance of accountability and oversight, Remote has appointed a dedicated data protection officer (DPO) to spearhead its GDPR compliance efforts. The DPO serves as a central point of contact for data subjects and regulatory authorities, ensuring that Remote adheres to all applicable data protection laws and regulations. 

This designated role demonstrates Remote's commitment to transparency and accountability and fosters trust among its customers, partners, and stakeholders. The DPO is supported by the data protection and security teams to implement and maintain a high level of GDPR compliance and monitor worldwide data protection regulation updates.

Personal data breach response process

To effectively manage and respond to personal data breaches, Remote has established comprehensive data incident response processes. These processes prioritize immediate containment of incidents, thorough root-cause analysis, and prompt notification to affected individuals and regulatory authorities. Regular training and simulations empower employees to respond swiftly and effectively to data incidents, minimizing potential risks and safeguarding the privacy of individuals.

By implementing these comprehensive measures, Remote empowers global businesses to confidently navigate the complexities of GDPR compliance. 

Partner with Remote to help your business remain GDPR compliant

GDPR protects individual privacy, ensures fair business practices, fosters customer trust, and prevents personal data breaches — all of which are essential for a company's success and integrity in the global marketplace.

When you’re hiring employees or contractors based in the EU, you’ll have to make sure you minimize legal risks by following GDPR rules. Working with a global HR provider like Remote can help you safeguard your business and provide you with the best-in-class information security.  Contact our data protection team for advice on how you can ensure compliance with GDPR while hiring globl teams.

link to Remote’s end-to-end employee data protection guide

Remote’s end-to-end employee data protection guide

Learn how Remote prioritizes information security and employment data protection. This guide explains how we protect our customers and their team members' data so they can securely access our services.

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